The marine waters of Washington state can often be corrosive to shelled animals such as clams and oysters, especially when they are very young. Corrosive conditions are driven by natural variability combined with an increase in the acidity of ocean waters. This threatens marine ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest, and poses a significant barrier to shellfish growers and the sustainability of their business. The natural set of young oysters in Washington can be highly variable, and the hatcheries that supply young oysters to growers have lost oysters when especially corrosive waters are drawn in from the nearby ocean.
In order for the shellfish industry to respond to the threats posed by ocean acidification, improved information is critical. The Washington Ocean Acidification Center has provided support for monitoring of seawater conditions around the state and at hatcheries, and has developed a tool that provides forecasts of ocean conditions. The tool shows ocean currents, temperature, salinity and ocean chemistry daily and up to two days in the future, allowing growers to see when conditions will be favorable for their operations. The Washington Ocean Acidification Center has partnered with UW’s Coastal Modeling Group to develop this tool, and current efforts are underway to expand its scope and use.