Hey there! Many people might not know that oyster farming actually benefits our environment. 2020 brings a want, and need, to practice sustainability and green living. Did you know that you can do your part by eating more Lowcountry Cups? So how exactly does aquaculture help positively impact our environment?
First, let’s begin with a working definition of what aquaculture is! Globally renowned and cited academic website, Frontiers, defines aquaculture as the growing/raising and cultivation of sea life by humans for their consumption. Aquaculture can help us to avoid overfishing and depleting marine resources all while keeping up with the rising global food demands. Frontiers also found that in a 2018 study, aquaculture held the lowest environmental impact compared to farmed livestock, fish, and wild-capture fisheries. Metrics of environmental impacts they used were energy use, greenhouse–gas emissions, release of excess nutrients (such as fertilizer), and contribution to acid rain.
So how exactly does aquaculture help positively impact our environment?
What the public may not know is that oysters are our environment’s natural water filtration systems. One oyster can filter as many as 50 gallons of water a day unlike humans that can barely consume 1 gallon of water a day! Oysters filter pollutants and regulate minerals like nitrogen and phosphorus from overtaking waterways. An excess of these minerals causes the growth of algae which can overwhelm bodies of water and reduce oxygen levels.
While nitrogen and phosphorus are essential minerals, there needs to be a balance in marine ecosystems. Other pollutants that oysters can filter out are herbicides, pesticides, and flame retardants. Think of oysters as the ocean’s kidneys!
Not only do they filter our waters, oysters can support marine life too! Many invertebrates depend on oyster shells for homes and for protection. Like coral reefs, oyster communities provide a safe nursery for species like shrimp, herring, anchovies, and crabs, which in turn attract more sea life to the area. When those new creatures begin to thrive in that environment that brings even more new creatures, creating a ripple effect for that community. Oysters can serve as the foundation for an entirely new community of sea life!