Studies focus on acidic ocean impact on Dungeness crabs

MUKILTEO, Wash. (AP) _ Millions of pounds of Dungeness crab are pulled from Pacific Northwest waters each year in a more than century-old ritual for commercial and recreational fishermen.

But as marine waters absorb more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, federal scientists are worried that the ocean's changing chemistry may threaten the sweet-flavored crustaceans.

So scientists with the NOAA Fisheries' Northwest Fisheries Science Center are exposing tiny crab larvae to acidic seawater in laboratory experiments to understand how ocean acidification might affect one of the West Coast's most lucrative fisheries.

Research published this year found that Dungeness crab eggs and larvae collected from Puget Sound and exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide _ which increases acidity _ grew more slowly and larvae were more likely to die than those in less corrosive seawater.

Dungeness crabs are the top revenue-fetching fishery in Washington and regon. In 2014, about 53 million pounds worth nearly $200 million were harvested along the West Coast.