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Celebrating Oysters During Oyster Week

October 16, 2023

It's Oyster Week! We're celebrating by honoring one of our favorite shellfish October 16-20 with special features.

A clump of several oysters all growing vertically A clump of healthy oysters was pulled from a restored oyster reef in Harris Creek, Maryland, as part of monitoring work. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office.

Oysters are remarkable. Oysters provide many benefits to the ecosystem they live in. They are filter feeders—they clean the water as they eat. And they grow in reefs, which provide great habitat for many other species. But in many places, their population has plummeted. So we also work to restore oyster reefs. They are also a popular seafood. At NOAA, we support research and policy development to grow sustainable aquaculture in the United States. And while they're growing, aquaculture-grown oysters deliver extra benefits.

Oyster Species

Some oyster species are native to the United States, while others have been introduced to support shellfish farming. 

  • The Eastern oyster is the only native oyster on the East Coast of North America. It is found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence around to the Gulf of Mexico, including the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Pacific oyster, introduced from Japan, is a popular West Coast aquaculture species.

Oyster Restoration

Why Are Oyster Reefs So Special?

Oysters help clean the water, and their reefs provide important habitat.
Learn why we’re helping to restore oyster populations

A healthy oyster reef
A healthy, restored oyster reef is home to many species, serves as habitat for other species, and helps clean the water. Photo: Oyster Recovery Partnership

What Does Restoration Look Like?

Oyster restoration involves many steps, and in large-scale operations, many partners.
This photo essay shows a few steps in the process

A crane is docked next to a pile of oyster shells
This recycled oyster shell was used to build an oyster reef in Virginia's Lynnhaven River. Healthy adult oysters on nearby reefs spawn annually, and their offspring will help populate the new reef within a couple of years. Photo: Lynnhaven River Now

Research Shows Ecosystem, Economic Benefits of Restoration

We have carried out and funded research to quantify the benefits delivered by restored oyster reefs.
Learn how these projects help the ecosystem—and the economy

A man wearing an orange lifejacket measures an oyster toadfish
Scientists from the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office carried out field research on how fish—like this oyster toadfish—and crabs use restored oyster reefs for habitat.

Oyster Aquaculture

How Does Aquaculture Work?

Oysters can be farmed to produce terrific seafood.
Farming of oysters supports jobs and sustainable seafood

An oyster farmer compares oysters by size to see which ones are ready for harvest.
An oyster farmer compares oysters by size to see which ones are ready for market.

How Do You Feed and Grow Baby Oysters?

Scientists at the NOAA Fisheries Milford Laboratory have pioneered many of the steps needed to grow baby oysters for aquaculture and other purposes.
Ravenna Ukeles developed methods for cultivating algae to feed oysters

A row of glass cylinders on a shelf containing microalgae in different colors, including green and brown. Bright lights are located behind the algae.
Ukeles’ microalgal mass culture room today. On the middle shelf, large, clear, bottle-like containers called “carboys” hold different algal strains. On the shelf above, smaller carboys contain a nutrient broth that will be used to replenish the algal carboys. On the bottom shelf are empty carboys that will be used to draw down the algae. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Mark Dixon

A Look at Oyster Aquaculture

Oysters are farmed in several different ways.
Take a look at a few different methods that all bring this healthy, sustainable seafood to your table

A person walks among rows of aquaculture oysters growing on ropes
Intertidal longlines are one method of farming oysters.

Last updated by Office of Habitat Conservation on November 27, 2023