oyster Little time left to save the worlds remaining oyster reefs; 85 percent have already been lost The first-ever comprehensive global report on the state of shellfish has been released by The Nature Conservancy at the International Marine Conservation Congress in Washington, DC.

This one of its kind report is a collaborative work carried out by scientists from five different continents employed by academic and research institutions as well as by conservation organizations.

The report, which focuses primarily on the distribution and condition of native oyster reefs, show that 85 percent of oyster reefs have been completely destroyed worldwide and that this type of environment is the most severely impacted of all marine habitats.

In a majority of individual bays around the globe, the loss exceeds 90 percent and in some areas the loss of oyster reef habitat is over 99 percent. The situation is especially dire in Europe, North America and Australia where oyster reefs are functionally extinct in many areas.

We’re seeing an unprecedented and alarming

decline in the condition of oyster reefs, a critically

important habitat in the world’s bays and estuaries,”

says Mike Beck, senior marine scientist at The Nature

Conservancy and lead author of the report.

Many of us see oysters as a culinary delight only, but oyster reefs provide us humans with a long row of valuable favours that we rarely think about. Did you for instance known that oyster reefs function as buffers that protect shorelines and prevent coastal marshes from disappearing, which in turn guard people from the consequences of hurricanes and other severe storm surges? Being filter feeders, oysters also help keep the water quality up in the ocean and they also provide food and habitat for many different types of birds, fish and shellfish.

Even though the situation is dismal, there is still time to save the remaining populations and aid the recuperation of damaged oyster reefs. In the United States, millions of young Olympia oysters have been reintroduced to the mudflats surrounding Netarts Bay in Oregon, in an effort to re-create a self-sustaining population of this native species. The project is a joint effort by government and university scientists, conservation groups, industry representatives, and local volunteers.

With support from the local community and other partners, we’re demonstrating that shellfish restoration really works”, says Dick Vander Schaaf, Oregon director of coast and marine conservation for the Conservancy. “Expanding the effort to other bays and estuaries will help to ensure that the ecological benefits of oyster reefs are there for future generations.”

If wish to learn more about the global oyster reef situation, you can find the report here.