Dave Kuhn, Oyster Research, Chesapeake Bay
Ambience: Oyster Shucking
That’s the sound of someone shucking an oyster. Oysters are an important shellfish, both for their environmental and economic value. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Kuhn: Oysters have been around for a very long time, and in recent years, we’ve seen a decline in the wild populations.
Dave Kuhn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Tech.
Kuhn: So, the oyster populations have been in decline over the last 50 years. That is troublesome because they provide such an economic benefit to a lot of people, and they also provide an environmental service, where they help clean up the water. And so, it’s very important to have oyster hatcheries to repopulate the waters, either for commercial production or for environmental services.
In the early 20th century, oysters were over-harvested in a lot of the areas, and so, the populations were dramatically reduced during those harvest periods. And they didn’t really make a comeback in some areas due to diseases and predation. Wild animals will come in and eat them.
The wild populations of oysters were suffering a few years ago due to diseases, and there’s some evidence recently that they are combatting those diseases, through natural genetic selection. And we don’t really harvest wild oysters very often now because we’re trying to protect those oysteries because they provide such an environmental service. So what we try to do is use oyster hatcheries to plant new stocks of oysters in the ocean in certain areas, and we can use those for our food supply.
There are two major issues for consuming oysters during the warm summer months. You might come across a red tide, which is associated with an algae toxin, and that event tends to be very local and short duration . There’s another issue that can happen in in some warmer waters where a bacteria species called vibrio can proliferate during the warmer months, and if they’re in the oysters and if you consume them raw, it is a health concern.
We’ll hear more about oysters in future programs. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.