Why Oysters are Important?

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Why oysters are (Crassostrea virginica) important?

  • Oysters clean the water through filter feeding.   A single adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water per day removing phytoplankton, pollutants and microorganisms from the water.  This process reduces the likelihood of anoxic (oxygen depleted) zones in the Bay and results in greater water clarity, allowing light to reach important underwater plants

  • Oysters provide food and shelter for hundreds of species.  Like a coral reef, an oyster reef provides a complex three-dimensional habitat that hundreds of estuarine species use, directly or indirectly, for food and shelter.  For example, gobies and skilletfish use oyster reefs as their primary habitat, while blue crabs and striped bass visit oyster reefs to breed, find food and/or hide from predators.

  • Oysters are good for the economy.   Until recent decades, oysters supported a thriving shellfish industry in the Bay region.  Steps being taken today to reduce water pollution, manage harvests, combat disease, restore wild populations, and encourage oyster aquaculture hold promise for an oyster renaissance.  

  • Oyster reefs attract some of the highest densities of fish of any type of habitat in the Bay, helping to sustain vibrant recreational fisheries.