Oysters Are Going Extinct, Study Says

Oysters are becoming increasingly scarce due to over harvesting, according to a new study.


An international team of researchers led by Michael Beck of the Nature Conservancy and the University of California, Santa Cruz, examined the condition of native oyster reefs in 40 ecoregions, including 144 bays.

Their study, published in BioScience, found that 85 percent of worldwide oyster reefs are disappearing.


"Oyster reefs are at less than 10 percent of their prior abundance in most bays (70 percent) and ecoregions (63 percent)," said the study. "They are functionally extinct -- in that they lack any significant ecosystem role and remain at less than one percent of prior abundances in many bays (37 percent) and ecoregions (28 percent) -- particularly in North America, Australia and Europe."


The study cites over harvesting and disease as the two largest factors for the disappearance. It did not include oyster reefs in parts of South Africa, China, Japan, and North and South Korea.


Other studies and observations in those areas "suggest that wild oyster abundance was much higher in the past and that reefs have declined greatly in abundance or have disappeared altogether," the authors said.


The one bright spot in the oyster world was in the Gulf of Mexico, where native oyster catches are "the highest in the world despite significant declines in abundance and reefs," according to the study.

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