Unusual ocean phenomena happening along Oregon coast


Two separate scientific studies are looking into unusual phenomena in the ocean just off the Oregon coast that could be damaging to sea life, and the coastal economy.

Hilarie Sorensen, a graduate student at the University of Oregon, is studying an uncharacteristic bloom of thousands of strange sea creatures called pyrosomes.

The jellyfish-like creatures are native to the Oregon coast, but have never been seen in such large numbers.

"People are going out and bringing up thousands in their nets. So much so that they're actually disrupting fishing operations. They're breaking equipment," said Sorensen.

Sorensen is trying to gauge where pyrosomes fit in the broader aquatic ecosystem, and whether they are an indicator of a larger issue in the ocean.

Meanwhile, at Oregon State University, Francis Chan is digging into findings of high levels of acidity in the ocean just off the coast.

High levels of acidity, which register as low pH readings, have a negative effect on sea life, particularly shellfish.

"We're starting to see pH values that are so low, not only does it make it hard for them to build a shell, but it actually dissolves the shell," said Chan.

Along with the areas of low pH, Chan said he has discovered areas he calls refuges, where pH levels have remained normal.

Chan said it's not clear whether his and Sorensen's studies are connected in any way, but said both point to something out of the ordinary that should be closely monitored going forward.

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