VANCOUVER, British Columbia, May 25 (UPI) -- Increasing ocean acidity could spell doom for British Columbia's already beleaguered abalone, prized as a gourmet delicacy, marine biologists say.
The northern abalone has a range spanning the North American coast from Baja California to Alaska, but even though British Columbia's abalone commercial fisheries were closed in 1990 to protect dwindling populations, the species has continued to struggle, largely due to poaching, researchers said.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia have completed a study they say is the first to provide direct experimental evidence that changing seawater chemistry is negatively affecting an endangered species.
Increased levels of CO2 from climate change can kill abalone larvae and increase the rate of shell abnormalities, a UBC release said Wednesday.
"This is quite bad news, not only in terms of the endangered populations of abalone in the wild, but also the impact it might have on the prospects for aquaculture and coastal economics," zoology Professor Christopher Harley said.
While average CO2 levels in the open ocean hover at 380 parts per million, the researchers say they are concerned by much higher spikes in dissolved CO2 that are already being observed along the British Columbia coast, particularly in late spring and early summer when northern abalone populations are spawning.