There’s no doubt that having more quality shellfish in the waters is a big win-win. Did you know that each full-grown oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, and in the process can remove excess nutrients and algae? Oyster reefs and shellfish farms provide safe habitat and food for fish, crabs, and other marine life.

Here’s a look at how oysters and clams contribute to clean water efforts.

National Shellfish Initiative

The National Shellfish Initiative was established in partnership with shellfish farmers and restoration organizations to boost populations of bivalve shellfish (mussels, oysters, clams) in the country’s coastal waters. Via restoration activities and sustainable commercial production, the initiative’s goal is to get more shellfish in the water.

Shellfish populations in coastal waters have been declining all along the Atlantic coast for years. In fact, the population of oysters at the top of upper Chesapeake Bay is under one percent of population levels that were seen in the early 1800s, as a result of habitat loss, overfishing, and disease. 

The successful growth and harvest of shellfish depends on good water quality. The Virginia Aquaculture Program aims to enhance the sustainability of aquaculture and negative impacts on water quality for shellfish producers.

Advantages of Shellfish

Shellfish need good water quality to survive and continue along in a healthy food chain. Oysters and clams offer a multitude of economic, environmental and social benefits, including:

Better water quality makes the environment more suitable for organisms and vegetation that need high water clarity to survive, such as eelgrass.

Furthermore, oysters are considered to be ecosystem engineers because they greatly modify and create new habitats for other species through the formation of reefs. And because shellfish are filter feeders, they remove nutrients and particles from the water column thanks to their natural feeding process. Shellfish feed on phytoplankton, but also accumulate and remove marine biotoxins, pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria and viruses), and chemical contaminants.

Shellfish beds create habitats for juvenile fish and invertebrates, which are a food source for predatory fish. And lastly, shellfish minimize the impact of climate change, which causes shoreline erosion, more intense and frequent storms, and coastal flooding. Shellfish beds help to stabilize sediments to guard against erosion and storms, and oyster reefs protect surrounding habitats such as salt marshes from the effects of erosion.

Contact H.M. Terry Co.

You will appreciate that our oysters and clams are harvested from the pristine inter-coastal waters of Virginia’s Coastal Reserve. This means our harvesting grounds do not have to adhere to the same water closures and harvesting restrictions that other water systems do, so we can meet our customers’ needs all year long. We also offer daily refrigerated shipments to many East Coast cities, working with shipping partners near you to deliver fresh products just about anywhere. To learn more, call us at 757-442-6251.