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Celebrating Oysters: Oyster Week 2021

November 01, 2021

It's Oyster Week! We're honoring one of our favorite shellfish November 1-5 with special features.

A closeup of hands wearing blue gloves holding a cluster of oysters Scientists monitor a reef with healthy oysters as part of a restoration effort. Photo: Oyster Recovery Partnership

Oysters are remarkable. They are a popular seafood. At NOAA, we support research and policy development to grow sustainable aquaculture in the United States.

Oysters also provide many benefits to the ecosystem the 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. 

Let's learn more about oysters!

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

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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

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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

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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.

The World's Largest Oyster Restoration Project

The Chesapeake Bay is home to 10 large-scale oyster restoration efforts. Visit this StoryMap to learn how NOAA and partners are working to achieve big goals

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A man inside a construction crane moves hard substrate from a barge
The view from inside the crane cockpit as the crane operator moves hard substrate from a barge into the Tred Avon River in Maryland to build an oyster reef. Photo: U.S. Army photo by Christopher Fincham

Infographic: Benefits of Oyster Reefs

Oysters live in salty or brackish waters on all U.S. coasts. They help clean the water and the reefs they form provide habitat for fish and other species. Check out the benefits they provide

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Infographic National Value of Oyster Habitat.jpg
Healthy oyster reefs benefit the ecosystem and the economy.

Oyster Aquaculture

How Does Aquaculture Work?

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

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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

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Large, clear, bottle-like containers on an elevated shelf. Plastic wrapped around the top of each carboy keeps the culture sterile. On the shelf above, there are smaller carboys. On the bottom shelf are empty carboys. Tubes connect the carboys holding algal culture with those on the upper and lower shelves. The room has a cement floor and the shelves are lit from behind.
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

Florida Oyster Farmer Boosts Seafood, Ecosystem

Near Florida's Big Bend, the Pelican Oyster Company provides great seafood—and helps the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Learn how "Salty Bird" oysters play an important role

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A hand holding an oyster knife and a freshly shucked "Salty Bird" oyster.
A freshly shucked Salty Bird oyster from the Pelican Oyster Company.

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

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

Tide to Table in Washington State

One shellfish farmer in Washington raises Chelsea Gem and Bonita as well as the Olympia oyster, providing sustainable oysters. Learn more about their work 

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A hand holding an oyster on the half shell.
A just-shucked Bonita Oyster from Chelsea Farms.

Last updated by Office of Habitat Conservation on November 05, 2021