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That Alaskan king crab on the dinner table could get a lot pricier if the acidification of ocean water proceeds at current high rates, according to new research. The study in the online journal Progress in Oceanography (abstract here) says ocean acidification — believed to be caused by seawater’s absorption of carbon dioxide released by power plants, vehicles and other sources — could make it harder for red king crabs and other mollusks to build shells. And that could mean trouble for Alaska’s fisheries and the small communities that depend on them, says the report.

Alaska's high-latitude coastal waters are seen as vulnerable because cold water can absorb more carbon dioxide and circulation patterns bring more acidic deep-ocean water to the surface. One of the new study’s lead authors, NOAA oceanographer Jeremy Mathis, said that direct effects aren’t showing up yet but the oceans are 30 percent more acidic than they were at the start of the Industrial Revolution, and the change between now and the end of the century could be 300 percent greater than that.

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– The Associated Press and NBC News staff