Protecting Water Quality
Shellfish farmers depend on clean, nutrient-rich water for their livelihood. Shellfish feed only on organisms that occur naturally in our coastal waters; if this food source is depleted or affected by pollution, the farmers are the first to notice.
Local residents can find comfort in knowing that shellfish farmers monitor the quality of the water year round, using methods that range from simple observation to sophisticated water quality testing and laboratory analysis.
The presence of large concentrations of oysters and other filter-feeding shellfish has a very beneficial ecological effect that can mitigate some damage done to coastal areas by upland activities.
Oysters are saving Chesapeake Bay (Virginia). Much like Baynes Sound and Cortes Island, here in British Columbia, the waters of Chesapeake Bay have a long history of being home to high densities of oysters. Environmental scientists attributed the failing health of Chesapeake Bay throughout the 20th century to a decline in the oyster population. In their heyday, oysters could filter and clean all the water in Chesapeake Bay in three to five days. State and local governments, environmentalists and shellfish farmers pledged to increase the overall oyster population in Chesapeake Bay tenfold to Save the Bay.
Providing Bird and Fish Habitat
We all know that oysters filter potentially damaging amounts of algae and sediments from the water. Recent scientific studies have shown that oyster farming has other ecological benefits too.
The recycling effect of filter feeding, which returns valuable sediments to the bottom, has been shown to increase the productivity of sea grass beds – an important habitat for juvenile fish. Farmed shellfish and their associated plant life provide homes and protection for a variety of invertebrate and fish communities.
Off-bottom longlines and rafts provide welcome habitat for creatures that, in turn, provide an important food source for fish and birds.