UNH Ocean Acidification Research


[MOTOR CRUISING] This is the Damariscotta
River in Damariscotta, Maine. This is probably the most famous
river or water body in Maine to grow oysters. Part of our business is raising
oysters from egg to small seed sizes in our hatchery. And back around 2008,
2009, we started to have really, really big
problems growing the larvae, the very earliest stage. We wondered whether this was
due to ocean acidification which we’d heard about. We’d heard that growers
on the West Coast had had problems with that. They had a 75% to 80% drop
in their oyster production. It was a real crisis
they got into. Ocean acidification
is an increase in carbon dioxide in
the surface ocean, leading to a decrease in pH. This increase in carbon
oxide is directly attributable to burning fossil
fuels and land use practices, and it’s definitely
a significant threat to shellfish. Clams, oysters,
scallops, they’re very susceptible
to changes in pH, to the point where,
if it gets too low, they have a very difficult
time building their shells. The pump, coming in from
the ocean or the river. Joe Salisbury from the
University of New Hampshire has set us up with this
monitoring system that is measuring water as we’re
pumping it into the hatchery. So we essentially are
getting information about the water
quality at our intake. That black box
calculates the oxygen in the water, the temperature,
the salt content of the water. The key thing it measures
is the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the
water, and then it calculates the level of calcium carbonate. That’s especially
important to us, because shellfish use
calcium carbonate, and as the waters
become more acidic, it takes more energy for the
oysters to make their shells. So what is the omega? Every 10 seconds, there’s
a new set of data points that are being logged into
the system, and we can see it, and Chris Hunt and the
others down at New Hampshire can see it, and they can
also control the device from down there. The rate at which this has
been happening, particularly since the Industrial Revolution,
early 1800’s, has increased dramatically, to
the point where we think this change
in pH of the ocean is greater than any time in
the Earth’s history, at least over the last 300 million years. Joe Salisbury has been one of
the most valuable resources for us as we grappled
with this problem. I believe that having
the information is going to be critical to
Maine’s shellfish industry. What happened on the West
Coast was a big deal. The industry nearly collapsed. And I think it’s really
important for the East Coast industry to take
notice, and to make sure that doesn’t happen here. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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