Environment

Dungeness Crab Vulnerable To Ocean Acidification in Unexpected Ways, Study Finds


Dungeness crab.

Dungeness crab.

Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

New research shows Dungeness crab fisheries could suffer as the Pacific Ocean grows more acidic.

Increasing acidification from carbon pollution will drive down food supplies for crab, according to new scientific modeling from the University of Washington and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“It turns out that Dungeness crab were a lot more susceptible to the loss of their prey items than they were to direct impacts,” lead author Kristin Marshall said. “We should probably be thinking about doing more work with Dungeness crabs to understand that a bit better.”

The decline could mean significant downturns over the next 50 years for an industry worth an estimated $200 million dollars in the Pacific Northwest, according to NOAA.

Marshall said the results were also partly encouraging. Outside of crab, other species showed more resilience to an increasingly acidic ocean than she expected.

For instance, the tiny sea snails and sea slugs known as pteropods, which are key food source for salmon, are likely less vulnerable to ocean acidification. Marshall’s research found they are prolific enough to offset the impacts.

“This model suggests that there is some resilience in the system, which is heartening,” she said. “It’s not a doom and gloom story. But I’m hesitant to say things are very rosy, either, based on our work.”’

This graphic from the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center shows the vulnerability of various sea life to increasing ocean acidification.

This graphic from the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center shows the vulnerability of various sea life to increasing ocean acidification.

NOAA

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