Oysters’ Popularity Creating Cleaner U.S. Waterways

oystersSure, the Lowcountry loves a good oyster roast, but did you know that the farm-to-table food movement has doubled oyster farming on the East Coast over the past six years? That’s good for our waterways, those of us who love the briny bivalves, and the fishermen. Much of the good news is because the way we eat oysters has changed radically over the past decade. These days, people want their food sources to be as “clean” and “sustainable” as possible.

Today’s oyster farmers grow mollusks that are immune to the diseases that used to wipe out entire wild oyster populations. And, the cages in which farmed oysters are grown create reef-like habitats, so as they grow, they produce cleaner water.

Because oysters are natural filter feeders, environmentalists think “sacrificial” oyster beds could help purify some of our most polluted waterways. As they feed, they accumulate any contaminants and toxins in the water.

Currently, Virginia has a program in place to increase sustainable wild oyster populations by restoring reef habitats and rotating harvests. Other East Coast states are processing a backlog of applications to lease thousands of acres of sea floor for new oyster farms – all with the potential to help create cleaner waterways – and more memorable oyster roasts.

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