February 27, 2014 2:00 am
Updated: February 27, 2014 2:04 am

Millions of scallops dying off B.C. coast

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The waters off B.C.’s coast has claimed another victim.

“For at least a year, probably even a little bit longer, we have not been able to obtain them, so we’ve been carrying the east coast [ones],” said Catherine Yamamoto from Wheelhouse Seafoods in Vancouver.

Many of B.C.’s scallops are grown from larvae at a hatchery in Qualicum Beach. It is a controlled environment, carefully monitored to give the shellfish the best possible chance.

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But moving to the ocean is the next step, where things are becoming increasingly difficult as the waters seem to have reached a tipping point.

“It’s much much more acidic than we expected,” said Rob Saunders, the CEO of Island Scallops.

PH levels have dropped as low as 7.2, which is well below the normal level of 8.2.

Scientists say carbon dioxide being absorbed by the ocean is the likely culprit, leaving scallops fighting for survival.

“We’ve lost pretty much all the 010 year class, all the 011 year class, which was our big year class, we couldn’t keep anything alive through 012,” said Saunders.

In total, 10 million scallops have died as they are unable to form a protective shell and that makes them more vulnerable to bacterial infections and predators.

Oysters are faring slightly better, but Island Scallops is having to lay off staff due to the lack of seafood surviving.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is working with producers to develop research strategies to pinpoint the issue.

In a statement they said:

“A change in pH could impact these species’ ability to react and adjust to their environment, and could have considerable impact on biodiversity.”

Until changes are made, it’s a matter of preparing for the worst.

“I do worry that it’s a sign of things coming,” said Yamamoto.

– With files from Kylie Stanton

© 2014 Shaw Media

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