Adaptation to Ocean Acidification

Case Study: Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery

Whiskey Creek

Cape Lookout

Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery is located in Netarts Bay, Oregon. The water in this environment is especially favorable to shellfish growth because no major rivers feed into the bay.

Netarts Bay pump

Water from Netarts Bay is directly pumped into the hatchery where fertilized eggs of shellfish (e.g. oysters and mussels) are grown into larval "seed" for both commercial and restoration purposes.1

Once grown, shellfish seed is filtered through a screen to separate the larvae by size.

Importance to Network

Whiskey Creek is the largest shellfish hatchery in the United States2 and produces nearly 70% of the seed used by independent shellfish growers in the Pacific Northwest.

Oyster hand

The Pacific Northwest shellfish industry supports thousands of people's livelihoods and contributes nearly $270 million per year to the regional economy.2 Many indigenous tribes across the PNW also place cultural value on shellfish, and have done so for millennia.

Source: Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (PCSGA)

Oyster Seed Crisis

In three consecutive summers between 2006-2008, Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery experienced an unprecedented loss of nearly 75% of their larvae due to extreme OA conditions.

This sudden seed shortage had reverberating consequences for the regional network of shellfish stakeholders who depended on the seed produced by Whiskey Creek, demonstrating how seed shortages drive vulnerability of shellfisheries to ocean acidification.

Researchers at Oregon State University began working closely with stakeholders at Whiskey Creek to assess the biological sensitivity of oyster larvae to OA and monitor estuarine water chemistry in near real-time.

oyster larvae

The picture above is a micrograph of Pacific oyster larvae raised under normal conditions (left) and acidified water (right). Source: Waldbusser, et al. 2013.

Adaptive Capacity

The seed crisis prompted urgent legislative action across the PNW, and new assets were unlocked for the purpose of combating continued OA risk.

Across the region, new scientific research and technologies were invested in by a number of federal, state, and local agencies.


pH sensor


Buffered Water Pump

CO2 sensor

Post-Adaptation Success

In the last few years, Whiskey Creek has been able to return their seed production to levels unseen since before the seed crisis of the late 2000s.

Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery is a shining example of how stakeholders faced with high exposure to ocean acidification can still overcome potential harm by following an adaptation pathway.

Regional Vulnerability Assessment:

Created by Brian Katz · Oregon State University · 2019