Coastal areas are home to a wealth of economic and natural resources and are the most developed areas in the nation with fast increase in human population. Over 50% of the nation’s population resides in 17% of the contiguous U.S. coastal areas. It is critical that consideration be given to the impact humans have on these coastal ecosystems and to the methods which are currently being utilized to enhance and restore these coastal habitats. In this chapter, we compare the status of the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, in two east coast estuaries: the Delaware Inland Bays, Delaware and Apalachicola Bay, Florida. Many ecological services, which are provided by oysters, such as their filtration, benthic and pelagic coupling, and habitat forming characteristics, have been extensively studied and discussed. Many regional economies in the United States of which the harvest of Eastern oysters was a major component, struggled with the collapsed fishery due to habitat limitation, water quality, sedimentation, parasitic diseases and other land use impacts. In response to these issues, oyster aquaculture has grown and is now a major part of the working waterfront where traditional wild oyster populations used to thrive. Research focusing on the ecological effects of oysters farm-raised with commercial aquaculture equipment is becoming more prolific as the industry moves away from a wild harvest fishery to a cultivated product. The oyster fishery may be recouped if the demand for oysters is supplied with oysters from aquaculture operations. Our primary goal in this chapter is to increase awareness about the potential benefits and some of the challenges facing the increased presence of aquaculture in these estuary systems.
Part of the book: Aquaculture