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Shellfish Farmers Fear Ocean Acidification May Affect Harvests in 2016

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CANADA - Shellfish farmers in British Columbia (BC) are fearing ocean acidification may affect their harvests in 2016 as it did in many places last year.

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Ocean acidification was blamed for the shutdown of the Washington oyster fishery last year and B.C. could be next, partially for the same reason, said Rob Saunders, owner of Island Scallops at Qualicum Beach.

Speaking to TheProvince, Mr Saunders said that Island Scallops, which provides seed oysters and scallops for farmers, lost 90 per cent of its oyster larvae last year.

Acidic water affects the oysters’ ability to grow a hard shell.

It takes two years for oysters to mature for harvest, and Mr Saunders said oysters may be in short supply this year.

Hatcheries have been boosting water’s pH levels and are working with federal officials to spawn “superior animals” able to grow in less than ideal conditions, he said.

Farmers also resorted to importing seed from Chile and that will make up the shortfall, said Roberta Stevenson, executive director of the B.C. Shellfish Growers Association.

“We’ve seen scallop farms suffer through this and lose their product (in past years),” Ms Stevenson said.

Aquaculture statistics from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) showed more than 8,000 tonnes of oysters harvested in B.C. in 2014, up 45 per cent from 2013. The last time total production topped 8,000 tonnes was in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

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