Farming Oysters Despite Acidic Seas

Bill Taylor, Paul Taylor, Diani Taylor and Brittany Taylor have more in common than just a last name; they also share a business. The Taylors have been in the family oyster-farming business in Washington State for five generations. In recent years, the Taylors have seen significant changes in the health of the ocean and the health of their oyster farm.

“The ocean is so acidic that it is dissolving the shells of our baby oysters,” says Diani.

Ocean acidification is a consequence of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from fossil fuels. When the ocean absorbs the CO2, the water becomes more acidic. Shelled animals like zooplankton, corals, clams, mussels and oysters cannot grow their shells in the acidic water. The effects are especially severe for the young stages of these animals.

Only a significant reduction in atmospheric carbon can truly reverse acidification, but oyster farmers like the Taylors have been able to put their own solutions into action in the meantime. They have brought the reproduction process out of the open ocean with an indoor hatchery where they can grow baby oysters during the vulnerable early stage of life. Once the oysters are big enough and shells have formed, the Taylors can plant them on the beach where they grow to full size.