The majority of Americans view Oysters as a source of food. Many do not know the influence they have on the ecosystems of Virginia and coasts around the world. For this blog post, I will be focusing on the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.
Over time, the population of Oyster Reefs have dwindled thanks to industrialization, parasitic diseases among oysters, and effluents from farming. At one time, there were so many oysters in the Chesapeake Bay that it was a hazard for ships to navigate up the Bay. John Smith once said the Oysters “lay as thick as stones.” Now, thanks to degraded water quality – the population of Oysters is 1% of what it once was (Chesapeake Bay Foundation).
Oysters are filter feeders. They consume Phytoplankton and improve water quality by extracting food from water. At one time, Oysters could filter the entire Chesapeake Bay in one week! Nowadays, it takes a year to filter the entire Chesapeake Bay.
However, things are getting better. The Chesapeake 2000 Renewed Bay Agreement signed by Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania called for a tenfold increase in the number of Oysters in the Bay in order to eliminate the amount of algae and sediments currently in the Bay. It should be noted that in the 1994 agreement between the states, they had the same plan to increase the Oyster Population by ten fold, but Virginia’s Oyster Population fell from 1.4 billion in 1994 to .5 billion in 2003 – this was due to parasitic diseases. For the 2000 agreement the states have agreed to invest more in disease research (Roesler 2003).
What can you do?
In Charlottesville there is a concrete company called “Allied Concrete.” They have created a proprietary and environmentally friendly substrate called the Oyster Castle®. The material creates Oyster attachment, settlement, and growth. This material is used in six states now, and has a 100% success rate in Oyster population regrowth . It is available to purchase directly from Allied Concrete, or the NOAA will subsidize the cost for you.
Oyster Castles (2013). In Allied Concrete Co.. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
Oyster Reefs (n.d.). In NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
Roesler, J. (2003). Living Resource Protection and Restoration. In Chesapeake 2000 The Renewed Bay Agreement. Retrieved October 17, 2015.