The oyster industry is a vital part of the economy in Fairhope, Alabama. But with climate change and sea level rise, the industry is facing a number of challenges. To grow healthy seafood, farmers need clean water, robust ecosystems, and a stable climate. This leads many members of the industry to prioritize environmental conservation and climate mitigation, both in and out of the water.
In general, animals with shells, such as mussels, clams, hedgehogs and starfish, will have difficulty forming their shells in more acidic waters. Studies show that mussels and oysters are expected to produce fewer shells, 25 percent and 10 percent respectively, by the end of the century. Urchins and starfish are not as well studied, but they form their shell-like parts from calcite high in magnesium, a type of calcium carbonate that dissolves even faster than the aragonite form of calcium carbonate used by corals. This means that these organisms have a weaker shell, making them more likely to be crushed or eaten. In order to protect the oyster industry in Fairhope from the effects of climate change and sea level rise, there are a number of steps that can be taken.
The first step is to place a substrate to which the oyster larvae attach, where the shells will grow and spend the rest of their lives. This substrate can be made from recycled oyster shells or other materials. Each recycled shell can hold up to 20 new oysters. In addition to protecting the oyster industry from climate change and sea level rise, it is also important to promote environmental conservation and climate mitigation. This can be done by partnering with other food sectors to address climate change.
It is also important to educate people about ocean acidification and its effects on oyster larvae. Finally, it is important to support local oyster producers and bars. There are a number of oyster producers in Fairhope such as Kamilche Sea Farms Metropolitan Market Neptune Seafood Pacific Hybreed Pleasant Bay Oyster Company PNW Fresh Seas the Day Oyster Bar Set & Drift Tokeland Hotel & Restaurant Taylor Shellfish Farms Willapa Wild. There are also a number of oyster bars such as Greene Hook Laughing Gull Oyster Farm, Lighthorse Tavern, Seven Bridges, Sloop Point Oysters Sweet Amalia. Bangs Island Mussels Bar Harbor Oyster Co Blackstone Point Oysters The Boat Yard LLC Butterfield Shellfish Chebeague Island. Julie Qiu is an oyster expert and educator who has been documenting her oyster experiences around the world through her blog In a Half Shell.
She has developed products to appreciate oysters such as an oyster tasting diary and has created a nine-part oyster masterclass for Skillshare. She has also expanded her blog to other outlets to make oysters more accessible to diners. Climate change and sea level rise are having a significant impact on the oyster industry in Fairhope, Alabama. In order to protect this vital industry from these effects it is important to take steps such as placing a substrate for the oyster larvae to attach to, promoting environmental conservation and climate mitigation, educating people about ocean acidification and its effects on oyster larvae, and supporting local oyster producers and bars.