It’s no secret how crazy we are about oysters! Rock-hard on the outside and slimy on the inside, these marvelous mollusks are more than just a tasty appetizer—they’re essential to maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems in the Indian River Lagoon and beyond.
Oysters have quite the life. As the water warms in the early months of summer, oysters release sperm and eggs into the water column that meet and fertilize. Larvae swim freely and, after 48 hours, form a “D” shape. After 20 days, they form a small foot and affix themselves to a hard surface. At this point, the larvae are called “spat,” and will reach adulthood in approximately six months.
Adult oysters are some of the hardest-working animals in the world, with a single oyster filtering between 25 and 50 gallons of water each day! Known as a keystone species, their reefs shelter small aquatic animals like fish and crabs, and create ideal conditions for seagrass to grow, which attracts sea turtles and manatees.
Humans have been eating oysters for more than 2,000 years. Though they have long been considered one of the greatest aphrodisiacs, no empirical evidence suggests oysters will help your love life. They may, however, improve your health—they’re high in zinc, calcium, iron, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids and protein!
Over the years, overharvesting, disease, pollution and coastal construction have contributed to the decline of oyster beds in the Indian River Lagoon. Our Restore Our Shores team is partnering with Brevard County, nonprofit organizations, researchers and community members to bring healthy populations of oysters back to the Indian River Lagoon. Using shells donated by seafood restaurants, more than 50,000 volunteers from all over the state have helped us build and deploy oyster mats and bags that form the bases of thriving oyster reefs. Plenty of opportunities are available, so check out our website to join the fun!