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Oysters: Shucking Pollution with our Help!

2011 January 28

Click here to visit the Oyster Recovery PartnershipOysters can be a delicious meal. Whether you like them fried, broiled, or you are adventurous enough to try them raw, oysters are enjoyed all over the world. 

 Did you know that the shelled mollusk has another incredible characteristic?  Oysters are natural filters. They draw water in from their gills – trapping and consuming plankton and excessive nutrients, which improves the health of the water they inhabit. Oyster reefs also provide great habitat for other organisms; crabs and small fish can hide and live in the cracks and crevices of oyster reefs.

 Oysters can filter 2 gallons of water an hour. The phytoplankton and excessive nutrients removed helps clarify the water which allows more sunlight through and promotes bay grass to grow. The bay grass, in turn, generates more oxygen in the water which improves the water quality for living organisms. More bay grass also means less wave energy pounding shorelines and increases habitat for other organisms.

 The Chesapeake Bay is a body of water that used to have huge oyster populations. Throughout the years, the pollution added to the Bay along with a loss of habitat and disease has made the oyster population drop to dangerous lows. There are efforts being made to bolster the oyster population. More oysters in the bay means more oysters to filter pollution and more oysters the local watermen can harvest.

 Major clean water initiatives like the recently-established Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet” will help improve conditions for the oyster population and in turn help bolster the local economy that relies so heavily on tourism and people coming to enjoy the shelled delicacy of the bay. Here’s more on the “pollution diet.” Also check out the Oyster Recovery Partnership for more on this comeback effort .

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. February 1, 2011

    Great article! I never realized how important oysters were to the ecosystem balance! If by building up the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay could reverse the damage done by pollution, it’s a miracle. Can’t wait to learn more about this project and hopefully hear of it success.

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  2. February 2, 2011

    Just passing by – and wanted to see how my tax dollars are being spent… thanks?

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  3. February 2, 2011

    That’s very interesting – one often forgets how interrelated everything really is… I suppose things get consumed in nature, but when man over does the consumption that is when the impact really occurs. Maybe they need a sign posted like Chic-fil-A – EAT MORE FiSH

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  4. February 3, 2011

    Hello I was searching some useful information about careers advice as I am due to graduate soon. I really enjoyed Your bog and will come back again soon.

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  5. June 3, 2011

    WOw! is this so? good job oyster! this is a perfect trivia! Now I know that oyster can filter gallons of water for just an hour! really incredible! Keep posting more informative blogs and I’ll keep posted to your site!

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  6. May 21, 2012

    I clicked on the pollution diet link at the end of this post. It has some excellent suggestions in the “how to tips” at the bottom of the page such as how to tell how much fertilizer your lawn needs so as not to overdue it, how to cut back on auto emissions and some other great ideas to lower pollution that we can do.

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