WHOI Warns Sea Scallop Fisheries of Rises in Ocean Acidification

WOODS HOLE – More than $500 million worth of Atlantic sea scallops are harvested off the east coast of the United States.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), however, warn that fisheries bringing in this massive catch might be in danger because of carbon-dioxide levels increasing in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the upper oceans to become increasingly acidic.

“What’s novel about our work is that it brings together models of changing ocean environments as well as human responses. It combines socioeconomic decision making, ocean chemistry, atmospheric carbon dioxide, economic development and fisheries management, said the study’s lead author Jennie Rheuban.

“We tried to create a holistic view of how environmental changes might play out across different aspects of the sea scallop fishery.”

The scientists say the condition could reduce the sea scallop population by more than 50-percent within the next 30 to 80 years.

The predictions were made using a model created by WHOI scientists, which combines existing data and models of four major factors: future climate change scenarios, ocean acidification impacts, fisheries management policies, and fuel costs for commercial fishermen.

WHOI says that the ocean absorbs more than a quarter of all carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They say that the acidity caused by this can corrode the shells of clams, oysters, and scallops, and event prevent their larvae from forming shells at all.

“The current sea scallop fishery is so healthy and valuable today in part because it’s very well managed. We also used the model; to ask whether management approaches could offset the negative impacts of ocean acidification,” Co-author of the study from WHOI and the University of Virginia Scott Doney said.

By TIM DUNN, CapeCod.com News Center

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