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The man with a plan

PSI researcher, Andy Suhrbier helps shellfish growers adapt to changing ocean conditions.

Ocean Acidification in the Pacific Northwest

OA Vulnerability

OA is occurring with greater intensity in the Pacific Northwest than anywhere else in the world. OA is disrupting shellfish species’ development, posing a threat to ecosystems and the economies that depend on them. Shellfish form the backbone of a $280 million annual industry in the region—across a chain of suppliers, hatcheries, growers, processors, distributors and vendors. Many indigenous peoples in the Pacific Northwest also place a special economic and cultural value on shellfish, and have done so for millennia.

OA Infographic

A diverse group of stakeholders involved with shellfisheries in the Pacific Northwest are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification (clockwise): Coastal Tribes, Shellfish Growers, Shellfish Hatcheries, Port Towns and Employees. pdf. Symbol credit:

The region is both a harbinger of things to come for other coastlines that will ultimately face OA exposure, and a laboratory for innovation on successful adaptation investments and strategies. The lessons we learn here about OA vulnerability can serve as guideposts for other people and institutions facing these threats in coming decades

The main goal of this project is to assess the vulnerability of stakeholders in the Pacific Northwest to ocean acidification (OA). We will identify adaptation pathways and associated costs, as well as barriers and limits to adaptation that can be overcome in order to avoid adverse consequences of OA to shellfish dependent people

Project Summary: Researchers at Oregon State University and the Pacific Shellfish Institute have partnered with NOAA to identify pathways for OA adaptation. The team will:

  • Develop interactive mapping tools to enable public understanding of current and future OA exposure;

  • Build bioeconomic models of shellfish aquaculture firms facing OA risk;

  • Identify technological, institutional, legislative, financial and cultural barriers to OA adaptation;

  • Identify feasible long-term pathways to OA adaptation;

  • Evaluate the value of those pathways; and

  • Develop behavioral models to predict the likelihood of users adopting feasible OA adaptation pathways

Team Leaders: David Wrathall (PI) and George Waldbusser from Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS), David Kling (Co-PI) from OSU’s Department of Applied Economics, and Bobbi Hudson from the Pacific Shellfish Institute

Project Summary (printable 1-pg PDF)


Oregon State University

Pacific Shellfish Institute

Funded By:

NOAA/OAR - Ocean Acidification Program

Related Resources:

Acid Water Takes its Toll on Puget Sound Shellfish video by EarthFix

Water Quality App. tailored to Shellfish Growers by NANOOS - Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems

Ekstrom, J. A., Suatoni, L., Cooley, S. R., Pendleton, L. H., Waldbusser, G. G., Cinner, J. E., ... & Wellman, K. (2015). Vulnerability and adaptation of US shellfisheries to ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change, 5(3), 207-214. pdf

Mabardy, R. A., Waldbusser, G. G., Conway, F., & Olsen, C. S. (2015). Perception and response of the US West Coast shellfish industry to ocean acidification: the voice of the canaries in the coal mine. Journal of Shellfish Research, 34(2), 565-572. pdf

Related Ongoing PSI Research and Monitoring:

Ocean Acidification Monitoring - Washington Coast

Oyster Seed Research and Training - Funded by NOAA Saltonstall Kennedy, grant no. 2004617

OA and Shell Development
OA Oyster Seed Micrograph

Oyster development under acidified water conditions and low available carbonate (right) compared to healthy larvae (left). Micrograph by OSU.


Learn More...
OA Infographic

Learn more about this issue, at risk stakeholders, and project goals in the above infographic pdf.