First evidence of altered sensory quality in a shellfish exposed to decreased pH relevant to ocean acidification

Understanding how seafood will be influenced by coming environmental changes such as ocean acidification is a research priority. One major gap in knowledge relates to the fact that many experiments are not considering relevant end points related directly to production (e.g., size, survival) and product quality (e.g., sensory quality) that can have important repercussions for consumers and the seafood market. The aim of this experiment was to compare the survival and sensory quality of the adult northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis) exposed for 3 wk to a temperature at the extreme of its thermal tolerance (11°C) and 2 pH treatments: pH 8.0 (the current average pH at the sampling site) and pH 7.5 (which is out of the current natural variability and relevant to near-future ocean acidification). Results show that decreased pH increased mortality significantly, by 63%. Sensory quality was assessed through semiqualitative scoring by a panel of 30 local connoisseurs. They were asked to rate 4 shrimp (2 from each pH treatment) for 3 parameters: appearance, texture and taste. Decreased pH reduced the score significantly for appearance and taste, but not texture. As a consequence, shrimp maintained in pH8.0 had a 3.4 times increased probability to be scored as the best shrimp on the plate, whereas shrimp from the pH 7.5 treatment had a 2.6 times more chance to be scored as the least desirable shrimp on the plate. These results help to prove the concept that ocean acidification can modulate sensory quality of the northern shrimp P. borealis. More research is now needed to evaluate impacts on other seafood species, socioeconomic consequences, and potential options. In order to allow full comparability with other ocean acidification data sets, the R package seacarb (Gattuso et al, 2015) was used to compute a complete and consistent set of carbonate system variables, as described by Nisumaa et al. (2010). In this dataset the original values were archived in addition with the recalculated parameters (see related PI). The date of carbonate chemistry calculation is 2015-03-25.