In the wild, oysters form reefs, which are a dominant feature of many coastal estuaries. Oysters are often considered a ‘keystone species,’ providing valuable shelter and habitat for many other estuarine organisms, improving water quality, and reducing bank erosion.
Oysters are typically found in estuaries, sounds, bays, and tidal creeks from brackish water (five parts per thousand [ppt] salinity) to full strength seawater (35 ppt salinity). Oysters are tolerant organisms, able to withstand wide variations in temperature, salinity, and concentrations of suspended sediments and dissolved oxygen.
Typically, it is the Olympia Oyster that is farmed throughout the US. It is native to the Northwest and Canada but has been devastated in the wild by pollution and overfishing.
All Olympias on the market today are farm raised. Farm raising oysters has many benefits. Unlike other farming operations, the oysters are not raised at high density, neither is there a high density of farms in any one area due to effective zoning and permitting practices. Furthermore they are located in area of only moderate to low ecological sensitivity.
Their physical structure allows them to enhance habitats by providing a home for a complex assemblage of juvenile and adult species of animals and plants, preventing coastal erosion, and by concentrating food for larger predators in one area.
No feed is used to farm Olympia oysters as they are filter feeders and get all the nutrition they need from algae and plankton in the water column. Acting as biofilters, they are able to actually improve water quality in an area by removing nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients for their own nourishment.
The absence of fish products as feed means these farms do not create waste and consequently have no downstream impacts on other ecosystems in the vicinity. The lack of feed also means they have no impact on stocks of other fish species which are often fished and turned into feed for fish farms. No chemicals are used in farming this species and incidence of disease is low.
Also unlike other farmed species, there is no escape danger as they have not been known to survive in the surrounding ecosystem following escape.
Broodstock or wild seed for hatcheries is taken from genetic stock in the region of the farm and thus all farmed species are native to the areas in which they are farmed.
Farmed oysters are healthy and actually beneficial for the environment. Cayman Sea Sense recommends this item for conscientious and delicious consumption.
Cayman Sea Sense is dedicated to helping consumers make informed and environmentally positive seafood choices. For more information on this and other seafood options please visit www.nationaltrust.org.ky/seasense.html or contact [email protected].