The bacterium Vibrio tubiashii kills shellfish in their larval stage. It is responsible for shutting down an Oregon shellfish hatchery last year and is likely behind the disappearance of young oysters usually found in the wild along the southern Washington coast, the Oregonian reported Monday.
"We're in a state of panic," Robin Downey, executive director of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, told the newspaper. "There is no other word for it."
Researchers said rising ocean temperatures may be one of the reasons the bacterium has become such a problem. The microbe seems to be thriving near "dead zones" that have appeared off the Oregon coast in recent years, the newspaper said.