This is depressing news for we oyster lovers. In short, climate change is creating ocean acidification which will decimate oyster beds. What’s more, we know it is already happening but the carbon currently affecting oyster beds today was spewed fifty years ago, meaning that what is happening today won’t be fully felt for another 50 years.
Ocean acidification is bound to get worse, before it gets better
It takes a few decades for all this acidic water to make it to the surface. That means the oyster die-offs we’re seeing now at hatcheries across the Pacific Northwest are being caused by carbon absorbed into the ocean at least four or five decades ago, when greenhouse gases levels were significantly lower. “The worst part is that even if I could push a button right now which would stop all CO2 emissions today, for the next 50 years things are going to get worse before they start improving,” Eudeline says. There are record levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now, which means the worst might be yet to come for producers like Taylor Shellfish.
Shellfish operations could move inland, but be prepared to drop almost $20 on an oyster
If acidity levels continue to soar, operations like Taylor Shellfish could theoretically move their operations completely inland and harvest oysters in a lab. But the production costs would get stupid high. “Instead of paying $10 a dozen, you’re going to pay $200 a dozen,” Eudeline says. “That’s just the cost of what it would take to grow an adult oyster on a land-based system where you can control all the water quality.” Plus, growing oysters on land just isn’t, well, natural. Says Eudeline: “We rely 99.9 percent on nature to do the job. If nature cannot do the job anymore, that means there will be a decrease [in oysters] — there is no doubt.”
Eat your bivalves today because your children probably won’t know what they taste like.