Sustainability

Shellfish Culture is Good for the Environment

Those of us who grow shellfish have known all along that aquaculture is good for the environment, but we now have a growing body of research to back up that assertion.  Shellfish clean the water, remove nitrogen, accelerate denitrification, enhance water clarity and promote eelgrass survival.  In addition, oysters provide excellent habitat for myriad juvenile fish and crustaceans.  All this and they taste great and are good for you too!

Listed below are links to some resources and write-ups of scientific research.

Jump to a quick description of sustainability research papers by clicking on the links below:

Consumption rates vary based on the presence and type of oyster structure: A seasonal and latitudinal comparison

Improving Production of the Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica, through Coordination of Genetic Improvement Programs, Research, and Technology Transfer Activities

Sustainable Oyster Aquaculture, Water Quality Improvement, and Ecosystem Service Value Potential in Maryland Chesapeake Bay

Presentation Slides for: Sustainable Oyster Aquaculture, Water Quality Improvement, and Ecosystem Service Value Potential in Maryland Chesapeake Bay

A Global Review of the Ecosystem Services Provided by Bivalve Aquaculture

Bioextractive Removal of Nitrogen by Oysters in Great Bay Piscataqua River Estuary, New Hampshire, USA

Water Cleaning Capacity of Oysters Could Mean Extra Income for Chesapeake Bay Growers

Cultured Shellfish One of the Most Environmentally Friendly Food–Production Systems

Shellfish Aquaculture is Good for the Environment

Ecosystem Services Assessment Study

New Technology Examines Oyster Aquaculture Ecological Services

Farming the Ocean to Feed the World

Shellfish Demonstration Project in Little Pond, Falmouth, Mass.

The Ecological Role of Bivalve Shellfish Aquaculture in the Estuarine Environment

Oyster Grow-Out Cages Function as Artificial Reefs for Temperate Fishes

Improving Marine Water Quality by Mussel Farming

Comparing the Habitat Value of Shellfish Aquaculture Gear, Submerged Aquatic Vegetation and a Non-Vegetated Seabed

Shellfish Aquaculture — In Praise of Sustainable Economies and Environments

Oysters Reduce Nitrogen Levels in Chesapeake Bay

Consumption rates vary based on the presence and type of oyster structure: A seasonal and latitudinal comparison (using Squidpops)

As oyster reefs continue to decline worldwide, interest has turned to restoration and aquaculture as ways to sustain the services derived from these ecologically and economically valuable habitats. While biogenic oyster reefs support a variety of ecological functions, it remains unclear whether aquaculture and its associated infrastructure can provide equivalent levels of functioning. The authors compared consumption rates by fish and invertebrate predators, a key indicator of energy transfer between trophic levels, between reef and aquaculture habitats for the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) in the Western Atlantic. They deployed a standardized dried squid prey item (‘Squidpops’) in three different structured settings: biogenic oyster reefs, on-bottom aquaculture, and off-bottom aquaculture. They found that consumption rates were contingent on the presence and type of structure: they were highest near off-bottom floating bags, and the difference between structured habitats and unstructured controls was also greatest for this treatment. The study revealed that certain types of aquaculture support comparable or greater consumption rates than natural reefs, suggesting an important role for this novel structured habitat in maintaining coastal food webs.

Improving Production of the Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica, through Coordination of Genetic Improvement Programs, Research, and Technology Transfer Activities

Authors Standish K. Allen Jr., Caird Rexroad III and Robert Rheault describe the approach that a strong team of shellfish geneticists will be employing to fine-tune the genome of the American oyster to develop regionally-adapted lines of animals with disease resistance and production traits that promise to make oyster farming more profitable in the years ahead.
Journal of Shellfish Research Vol. 39(2), 175-179, (26 August 2020).

Sustainable Oyster Aquaculture, Water Quality Improvement, and Ecosystem Service Value Potential in Maryland Chesapeake Bay

This study by Matt Parker and Suzanne Bricker describes modeling efforts to examine the potential for nutrient credits at oyster farms of various scales and densities (off bottom and on-bottom) to project what growers might expect when the credit trading goes live.
Journal of Shellfish Research Vol. 39(2), 269-281, (26 August 2020).

 

Presentation Slides for: Sustainable Oyster Aquaculture, Water Quality Improvement, and Ecosystem Service Value Potential in Maryland Chesapeake Bay

This pdf is from a Power Point presentation made by Matt Parker and Suzanne Bricker about their study examining the potential for nutrient credits at oyster farms of various scales and densities (off bottom and on-bottom) to project what growers might expect when the credit trading goes live.

Ecosystem Services Presentation

 

A Global Review of the Ecosystem Services Provided by Bivalve Aquaculture

Bivalve shellfish aquaculture provides many benefits to society, beyond their traditional market value. This study collates the evidence available on the provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services provided by the bivalve species commonly used in aquaculture, synthesizing evidence to provide a global assessment of the potential market and non‐market economic value of bivalve aquaculture. This article appeared in the February 2020 issue of Reviews in Aquaculture (Volume 12, Issue 1, Pages: 1-496)

Bioextractive Removal of Nitrogen by Oysters in Great Bay Piscataqua River Estuary, New Hampshire, USA

Eutrophication is a challenge to coastal waters around the globe. In many places, nutrient reductions from land-based sources have not been sufficient to achieve desired water quality improvements. Bivalve shellfish have shown promise as an in-water strategy to complement land-based nutrient management and prevent eutrophication.

Water Cleaning Capacity of Oysters Could Mean Extra Income for Chesapeake Bay Growers

Oysters are one of the most valuable fisheries in Chesapeake Bay, with annual commercial landings valued at more than $40 million. A large part of this harvest comes from aquaculture. Oysters feed by filtering algae from the water, which removes nutrients that can degrade the aquatic environment. A single adult oyster can filter more than 50 gallons of water a day. Along the U.S. East Coast, NOAA scientists are measuring the amount of nutrients removed by oysters to help states develop nutrient management plans that include oyster farms. They are now determining the value of the removed nutrients that might be paid to oyster growers in a nutrient credit trading program.

Cultured Shellfish One of the Most Environmentally Friendly Food–Production Systems

In a June 2018 study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, researchers compared various food–production systems in terms of their impact on the environment. They examined how farmed livestock, farmed fish and shellfish, and wild–capture fisheries performed against four metrics of environmental impact (energy use, greenhouse–gas emissions, release of excess nutrients such as fertilizer, and contribution to acid rain).  Farmed shellfish had among the lowest environmental impacts across nearly every metric.

Read the full text of the scientific paper, The Environmental Cost of Animal Source Foods, by Ray Hilborn, Jeannette Banobi, Stephen J Hall, Teresa Pucylowski, and Timothy E Walsworth.

Shellfish Aquaculture is Good for the Environment

This brochure packs a lot of information about the environmental benefits of shellfish aquaculture.

Ecosystem Services Assessment Study

In this study published in 2015 by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, a talented group of modelers projected that the current oyster industry in Connecticut removes nitrogen that would be worth millions of dollars in a nitrogen trading program.  The report is titled, An Ecosystem Services Assessment Using Bioextraction Technologies for Removal of Nitrogen and Other Substances in Long Island Sound and the Great Bay/Picataqua Region.

New Technology Examines Oyster Aquaculture Ecological Services

Researchers at the NOAA Fisheries Milford Lab used GoPro cameras and water-collecting gear to study how oyster farm cages are providing beneficial habitat for wild species.

(Watch a video showing black sea bass congregating around one of the cages.)

Farming the Ocean to Feed the World

Research Specialist Scott Lindell of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution gave a TedXCambridge talk on the challenges of feeding the world's population by 2050, presenting a compelling case that marine aquaculture is one of the best and most sustainable ways to meet that challenge. In the 16-minute video, he describes the ecosystems services provided by shellfish aquaculture, a low-impact food production system that has the potential to mitigate climate change while sustainably feeding future generations.

Shellfish Demonstration Project in Little Pond, Falmouth, Mass.
The final 2014 report on a project to evaluate shellfish as one of the tools for bringing about a detectable change in water quality.  Researchers  concluded that oysters did produce modest improvements in nearby water quality.
An overview of the entire project prepared by the Falmouth Conservation Commission.
The Ecological Role of Bivalve Shellfish Aquaculture in the Estuarine Environment

This exhaustive  scientific review, originally published in Aquaculture in 2009, examines how bivalve aquaculture — most notably oyster and clam culture on the West Coast — influences estuarine systems.   Authors are Brett R. Dumbauld, Jennifer L. Ruesink and Steven S. Rumrill.

Oyster Grow-Out Cages Function as Artificial Reefs for Temperate Fishes

In this 2007 article published in the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society  Jessica Tallman and Graham Forrester showed that oyster cages were similar to artificial reefs and natural cobble reefs in terms of habitat quality for scup and tautog.

Improving Marine Water Quality by Mussel Farming

Since oysters are 1.4 percent nitrogen by weight, harvesting 10,000 oysters for weekly deliveries to customers removes about 23 pounds of nitrogen and 2.3 pounds of phosphate from growing waters.  This is equivalent to the annual nitrogen output of a single waterfront homeowner!

Odd Lindahl et al. presented an economic analysis of a mussel farm in Sweden that removed 39 Tons of nitrogen from a fjord annually at a substantial savings compared with a proposed land-based sewer treatment upgrade.

Comparing the Habitat Value of Shellfish Aquaculture Gear, Submerged Aquatic Vegetation and a Non-Vegetated Seabed

In 2004 University of Rhode Island graduate student Brian Kilpatrick compared the abundance and diversity of organisms congregating around eelgrass with those on oyster cages.  His thesis research showed that the abundance of small fish, crustaceans, and invertebrates in the oyster cages was about ten times that in the eelgrass beds, and that the diversity indices at the two sites were about the same.  He counted thousands of fish, crabs, and lobsters in the oyster cages, including hundreds of juvenile tautog, black sea bass, and other commercially important species.  Kilpatrick's paper appeared in vol. 23 of the Journal of Shellfish Research.

Shellfish Aquaculture — In Praise of Sustainable Economies and Environments.

This guest editorial appeared in the December 2003 issue of  World Aquaculture.  Written by Sandra Shumway, Chris Davis, Robin Downey, Rick Karney, John Kraeuter, Jay Parsons, Robert Rheault and Gary Wickfors.

Oysters Reduce Nitrogen Levels in Chesapeake Bay

In 2002, Roger Newell and colleagues at the University of Maryland suggested that bacteria in the sediment around oyster bars remove at least 20 percent of the nitrogen in oyster wastes through denitrification, the same process used in modern wastewater treatment plants.

You can read Newell's original paper that appeared in the September 2002 issue of Limnology and Oceanography, titled, "Influence of Simulated Bivalve Biodeposition and Microphytobenthos on Sedimentary Nitrogen Dynamics: a Laboratory Study."