Time to take ocean acidification seriously


To the Editor:

From 2007 to 2010, major shellfish hatcheries supplying the seed for West Coast oyster growers suffered persistent production failures. Hatchery scientists were witnessing baby larval oysters (just the size of the width of an eyelash) completely dissolving before their eyes. It wasn’t until 2012 that a group of researchers at Oregon State University confirmed that the collapse in oyster seed production was due to ocean acidification.

Due to various factors, the northern Pacific Ocean is more prone to ocean acidification than the northern Atlantic Ocean; however, we are now beginning to see the effects locally. Luckily, we can implement the West Coast hatchery solutions to overcome the short-term acidification problems, but more research is needed to learn how our fisheries will be impacted long-term.

The aquaculture industry is the fastest growing food sector in the U.S. (5 percent growth annually since 2010), and shellfish farming on the Island currently generates about $4 million annually into our local economy.

A huge step forward was taken in August 2018 when Governor Baker signed into law the Environmental Bond Bill, sponsored by Senator Tarr and our own Senator Cyr. The bill creates a 19-member commission of industry members and scientists to study the effects of acidification on marine species, identify the knowledge gaps that may hinder response, and prioritize strategizes to fill those knowledge gaps.

The commission will report their findings to the governor in December 2018, along with drafts of legislation necessary to carry out those recommendations.

In order to capitalize on the enormous growth opportunities of the aquaculture sector, it is imperative that the Island and Massachusetts be prepared for the effects of ocean acidification and have the ability to quickly adapt to the needs of the industry and environment. Ocean acidification legislation filed by Senator Cyr and Representative Fernandes in 2017 have helped make this possibility a reality.

Dan Martino
Vineyard Haven

The author is the owner of Cottage City Oysters.  –Ed.


  1. Again misrepresentation. The ocean is alkaline. If anything the ocean might become less alkaline but it ain’t becoming acidic. This is blatant alarmism and it’s part of a back up plan now that no one cares about climate change anymore due to its extreme cost to remediate and to no meaningful avail. Setting forth “twin evils” is a ruse for the alarmists agenda. I await the usual suspects to hurl their invective at me.

    • Andrew– Here I am– No need for me to hurl insults at you. Quite the contrary, I will compliment you on your vocabulary. So it would seem to me that you would know that if something is becoming more acidic, that is the basic definition of “acidification” ( as modified of course) . But the real point here is that the ocean’s ph factor is changing. You can try to distract by using semantics. But the fact is the ocean is changing. There is no misrepresentation in this letter to the editor.

      • the pH still remains alkaline . The use of the word acidification is designed to to make the reader think the ocean is acidic. It is not. Yes the ocean is changing and it’s inhabitants have shown remarkable ability to adapt. I stand by my opinion. You have lost the climate change alarm so now you are starting another alarm.

        • While there is something of an alarmist tone in the original letter, I think it is easier to make an argument for significant human responsibility for change in ocean pH than for, say, climate change.

        • Any of temperature change, salinity, pollutants, and depth can make a marine environment unlivable.

          The ocean inhabitants cannot evolve quickly enough, they find a new home or die. To survive, they must migrate to waters that don’t make them sick and provide a sufficient food source to sustain.

          Of temperature change, salinity, pollutants, and depth, three are the result of melting ice and ice melts when … wait for it … the planet heats up. Want to discuss climate change now?

          • Nonsense new Englander. On the contrary most ocean life is very flexible and adapts. You can look it up. No one cares about your oysters and certainly no one wants to spend trillions of dollars on something that ain’t gonna change much due to the spending.

        • since when did any of the thousands of scientist studying climate not express concern about rising ph levels in the ocean. If you think I have “lost” the climate change debate, I suggest you quit getting your news from whacko sites, and check out some real news. Even the wsj is noting dramatic changes in the climate. Hopefully, you are not burying your head in the sand too close to the ocean.

          • Dondon your sources tell us that the ocean was more acidic than now more than 56 million years ago and Markvetro down below is telling us that the oceans pH is 8.2 for 300 million years. Can you guys do this with a straight face?

          • I can certainly say it with a straight face. What part don’t you understand ? Perhaps the “more acidic” part ? If we have an alkaline solution that is 8.2 , and it changes to 8.1, it is more acidic, and —wow– less alkaline. Both things are true. You can try to distract with semantics, but there is clear evidence that the oceans of the world are becoming more acidic. That process is called “acidification” . And if you don’t believe in science, might I suggest that you take that 1/2 pound of dirt that you call a phone , and burn it. It is after all, 1/2 pound of dirt, and billions of hours of science.
            In the meantime, put on your straight face, and tell me that storms , droughts, severe weather events, including heat waves and cold snaps are not getting more intense. Or that sea level is not rising.
            I hope that “god” never decides to destroy your house in Florida (or here for that matter ) , but I do hold you and your ilk partially responsible for the destruction of people’s lives around the world.

          • National Hurricane center says they are not more frequent or larger worldwide since 1850. Consensus doesn’t mean truth. Line up 100 Democrats to tell us Hilary is great and we still won’t believe them.

          • @hanleyclifford – Parts of the formula to assign a pH may be described as arbitrary. The formula: pH = -log[H+]

            The minus sign changes every negative log to a positive value. Remove that minus and acidic vinegar is assigned a value of -2.2, the oceans of -8.1. Now when pH “falls,” the water is becomes more alkaline, when it “rises” more acidic.

          • @BS – If a home has electric heat, why do owners delay a conversion to less-expensive natural gas. Because plumbing is required. A boat would require cables and batteries. And let’s not forget the affinity sea air has for electrical work.

    • hanley– I guess you think it would be better to just hope for the best ? No use trying to figure out what is happening to shellfish larva. Do you think our taxpayer dollars would be better spent on a 9 th investigation into Benghazi ? perhaps if we spent a few more million investigating the divisive claim that 3 million people allegedly voted illegally for Hillary , we could turn up 3 or 4 more cases of voter fraud. Would you feel better?
      And just to go off topic about a recent post in which you wondered about the great spirit criticizing those that disagree– add “horse face” to the list of trump insults.

    • hanley– I am old enough to remember when the problem was “acid rain” — which we dealt with — and all Ronald Reagan wanted to about it was to study it — for his whole time in office–

    • since you did not respond to my offer to exchange e mail addresses, I occasionally have to remind you of things you say that are not quite accurate. my e mail by the way, in case you didn’t catch my clues about a month ago is dk ( like my initials , and then followed by a nod to my father, as he would put his head in his hands and say “dondondon” while retrieving me from the police station) and I do like gmail , by the way.

  2. Out of whack pH is a cumulative result of many things. Communities can make the effort locally without waiting for someone to come up with a worldwide plan. And people shouldn’t excuse herbicides because sewage overflow is smelly.

  3. I’ve tried to put the science succinctly:
    When CO2 dissolves in H2O carbonic acid is formed from some of the CO2. The carbonic acid, CO2, and water are at equilibrium at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. An increase in temperature should decrease the carbonic acid (i.e. convert some of the carbonic acid back to CO2. However currently both ocean CO2 and atmospheric CO2 are rising at the same time. This has never happened before. The extra atmospheric CO2 is coming from burning fossil fuels, not from the oceans. The extra ocean CO2 is coming from the atmosphere.
    The ocean is alkaline. It’s PH is 8.1 (neutral is PH 7). For the past 300 million years it has been 8.2 but started falling with the start of the industrial revolution. The PH scale is logarithmic so that represents a 25% increase in acidity/25% decrease in alkalinity. Shellfish are evolved to take advantage of the point of equilibrium of an 8.2 PH; there may be species that can tolerate a lower (but still basic) PH but not the oysters we love.
    For those wanting to delve deeper on the chemistry of oyster shells I suggest reading up on carbonic acid and calcium carbonate. For the record of atmospheric CO2 look up the NOAA Mauna Loa Earth System Research Lab. To understand what makes CO2 a greenhouse gas read up on “stretching and bending in IR”. To understand past glaciations and warmings read up on “Milankovitch cycles”.

  4. Businesses come and go depending on the business climate. Remember Blockbuster Video? Aquaculture in decline, oh well, get another job!

  5. Hanley– I think someone may be off the rails, but I don’t think it’s me.
    I said going from 8.2 to 8.1 means getting more acidic. To me , going from 8.2 to 8.1 is “falling “. Are we at the point that we can’t agree that 8.1 is less than 8.2 ?
    I know you deniers are not big on the details, but really ?

  6. Dondon. 8.1 is less than 8.2 but it is still alkaline. Using the term acidification is designed to scare and alarm and makes readers think the ocean is acidic. That was my only point. You can laugh at it but my laugh about 56 million years and 300 million years for testing pH is a more acidic laugh.

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