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Oysters getting cooked by climate change

July 14, 2008 | 12:00 pm


Oyster farmers in the Pacific Northwest and California, who face a shortage of "spat" to replant their oysters beds, aren't the only ones struggling with growing the succulent shellfish in a warmer world.

News reports from Europe reveal that shellfish farmers in France are facing their worst crisis in 40 years as stocks of oysters are perishing from a mystery ailment. Scientists haven't figured out the culprit, but they believe that elevated sea temperatures are rendering oysters more vulnerable to disease.

Oyster farmers in France, like those in California, have switched to a heartier Pacific oyster that originally comes from Japan. Yet even the best science is struggling to keep pace with ecological changes in coastal waters around the globe.

-- Kenneth R. Weiss

Photo: Workers plant oyster "seeds" on Samish Bay in Washington. A strain of bacteria has wiped out billions of West Coast oyster larvae. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times