The U.S. west coast (Washington, Oregon, and California) shellfish industry is estimated to directly employ 3,200 people and annually contribute more than $270 million to the region’s economy. This industry predominantly cultivates Pacific oysters, introduced from Japan to replace the native and over-harvested Olympia oyster. Ocean acidification (OA) has received worldwide attention from researchers, media, and the public as an urgent environmental and economic issue. Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion, land use change, and other human activities result in increased CO2 being absorbed by the ocean. OA makes it harder for coral, phytoplankton, shellfish, and other marine organisms to build their shells and skeletal structures. Shellfish larvae are especially sensitive to acidified waters during critical, early life-stage development. Ocean acidification is happening quickly, and this rapid pace of change gives marine ecosystems and coastal stakeholders less time to adapt.
This study focused on commercial shellfish growers and hatcheries in Washington, Oregon, and California, since they support the base of the extended commercial industry and are closely affected by outcomes of OA. The research objectives were to evaluate the shellfish industry’s experience with OA impacts, assess their self-reported understanding of OA, evaluate how experience with OA impacts and understanding influence level of concern, determine which data sources provide the most useful information to the industry, explore the potential for partnership between the industry and researchers, and investigate how the industry perceives adaptation to OA.