October is here and for many shellfish enthusiasts that means they can begin enjoying local oysters. In addition to their taste, oysters have tremendous ability to clean water through their filter feeding. Oysters pump gallons of water daily through their gills to consume the nutrients they need to live and grow. In that process, excess nutrients are removed from the water to help improve water quality.
Disease and over harvesting have decimated oyster populations along much of the east coast but there is renewed efforts grow them through aquaculture. Indeed, in the Chesapeake Bay area, oyster growers are rewarded for the nutrient reductions from filtering done by the shellfish.
Oysters play a role at improving water quality in North Carolina, too. A recent podcast describes how oyster farming is suited for North Carolina’s coastal waters. With the popularity of oysters, the demand is there to support farming while also having the side benefits of improving water quality. With some progressive policies, it’s possible that NC oyster farmers may also get financial benefits from the ecosystem services they supply, too.