Oysters, scallops and clams … they’re an iconic part of American cuisine and a critical source of jobs in many coastal communities. But the nation’s approximately one billion dollar shelled mollusk industry is at risk.


When cars, factories, and power plants emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, some of the pollution gets absorbed by the oceans – increasing their acidity and making it hard for mollusks to build their shells.

According to a new report, the problem has economic consequences for coastal communities – from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay, and from the Louisiana Bayou to the Pacific Northwest.

Economist Linwood Pendleton of the European Institute for Marine Studies and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute says better monitoring will help fishermen adjust their harvests according to ocean conditions.

Pendleton: “We also need to work with local communities to make sure that they’re not unduly dependent on shellfish species that are going to be highly sensitive to ocean acidification.”

He suggests, for example, that oyster fishermen consider diversifying the species they catch or moving into fin or crab fisheries. This could help at-risk communities survive economically, but their traditional way of life is now in peril.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Using Spatial Data and Analysis to Understand the Human Impacts of Ocean Acidification
States are Vulnerable to Ocean Acidification

Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...