More than a seafood delicacy, oysters are an incredible natural resource. They are extremely helpful to our environment by filtering water, providing habitat, and controlling erosion. Adult oysters may filter up to two and a half gallons of water per hour, which in turn improves water quality. Oysters build reefs that provide habitat for fish, shrimp, crabs, and other aquatic animals. Oyster larvae need the hard, shell surface for settlement and growth. A special focus that has been put on oysters recently is their ability to control land erosion.
Oyster reefs have been constructed along eroding shorelines in an effort to lessen wave energy and ultimately reduce erosion. Seven of our nation’s fifteen largest shipping ports are located along the Gulf of Mexico. The wakes created by the cargo ships heighten erosion along an already disappearing coastline.
Globally, it is estimated that 85% of oyster reefs have been lost. Large-scale restoration projects can create man-made oyster reefs that duplicate many of the benefits of natural reefs. Oysters and the massive reefs provide a foundation for a healthy ecosystem. The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) founded the Oyster Shell Recycling Program in 2014. This program collects shells from New Orleans area restaurants and utilizes the shells to restore fading oyster reefs that protect Louisiana’s coastline. A majority of shell removed from the coast is not returned back to the waters. It is vital to Louisiana’s disappearing coastline that oyster shells are brought back to help as a line of defense for coastal restoration.