- Oysters are disappearing fast and 85 percent of their reefs have been lost due to disease and over-harvesting.
- The decline in oyster population often begins when trawling or dredging destroys the structure of parts of the reef.
- When non-native species are introduced, they often bring with them diseases that further kill off the native oysters.
When I first saw the story, it seemed awfully familiar. So I dug around a bit and quickly found this press release put out by The Nature Conservancy in May, 2009:
Today, The Nature Conservancy released the first-ever comprehensive global report on the state of shellfish at the International Marine Conservation Congress in Washington, DC. The report, which finds that 85 percent of oyster reefs have been lost worldwide, concludes that oyster reefs are the most severely impacted marine habitat on the planet.
The new study appears to be a peer-reviewed publication of the same work detailed in the 2009 report – same map (above) and listing of “144 bays in 40 ecoregions”, same authors (with one addition), same website for the 2009 report and supplemental information for the new paper … you get the idea. So it’s not exactly breaking news.
Going through the peer review process does give the data some additional cred, though. And it’s an important – if sobering – finding. Oyster reefs are coast-saving structures and incredible, natural water filtration systems, as well as a source of good eats.
Both reports end on a hopeful note, providing recommendations for improving the global condition of oysters that can be summed up in three words – preserve, restore, manage. We’ve got a bit of the latter two getting started here in Wellfleet Harbor, where wild oysters were fished almost to extinction a century ago. Check it out.