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Is Climate Change a Threat to Oyster Dressing?

Oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay may be threatened by climate change. Credit: Krystle Chick/Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay may be threatened by climate change. Credit: Krystle Chick/Chesapeake Bay Foundation
November 24, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. - Climate change may be a threat to one holiday favorite – oyster dressing.

According to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation, oyster reefs are on the front lines for damage from global climate change.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's oyster expert and senior scientist, Chris Moore, says heating up the oceans will mean more algae which can make it harder for the oysters to reproduce and, in some cases, make them unsafe to eat.

"When we have warmer waters over a long period of time, we end up with a higher likelihood of having those algal blooms," he says.

Moore says climate change is also making the oceans more acidic, which makes it harder for young oysters to grow their shells. Oyster shells are made from calcium carbonate.

"And unfortunately, they can't do that," Moore explains, "Because they can't produce enough shell material, because of the acidification."

The Chesapeake Bay is one of the nation's most important sources for oysters, but Moore says all oyster reefs are facing these issues.

"No matter if you're on the East Coast or the West Coast," he says. "Here in Chesapeake Bay, it's something obviously we're very concerned about, especially as our aquaculture industry grows."

Moore believes these are good reasons to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. But many in the coal and oil industries and their political allies contend that carbon restrictions, such as those outlines in the EPA's Clean Power Plan, would be devastating for them.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA