The Gulf Coast Oyster

Where do the Gulf Coast Oysters fit into the BP Oil tragedy? Are they victims or saviors? Could they possibly hold the key to a massive gulf-coast clean up?

This small story blipped across our radar, and in fact is something we’d been talking about in private over here for a while: Where do the Gulf Coast Oysters fit into the BP Oil tragedy? Are they victims or saviors? Could they possibly hold the key to a massive gulf-coast clean up? Obviously we would not choose to place them in harms way but being the super-filters that they are, might they be able to lend a helping “squish” in this tragedy?

Will oil from the BP spill contaminate shellfish in affected areas of the Gulf of Mexico? NOAA researchers are fast at work trying to answer that very question.

Two teams of scientists from NOAA’sNational Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and Southeast Fisheries Science Center are collecting oysters and sediment from nearly 60 Gulf Coast shoreline sites stretching from the Texas/Louisiana border to southwestern Florida.

Working in tandem with colleagues from Louisiana State University and the Mote Marine Laboratory, researchers will be testing the samples for 120 chemical and microbial contaminants — including 60 oil-related compounds — to determine their baseline contamination. Once oil reaches the shoreline, new samples will be collected and tested. By comparing these two sets of data, scientists can determine any pre-existing level and type of contamination, and identify any change in contamination that might be linked to the spill. – NOAA

What if we transported millions of oysters in to the gulf? Or banned fishing of gulf oysters for years, regardless of their marketability?

Beyond making pearls and slimy-disgusting delicacies, oysters work as effective natural filters for the environment and a program to repopulate them in New York’s many waterways is working. It’s said that one oyster can clean up to 50 gallons of water a day, which is great for us, but at the rate BP’s oil is spewing, futile for Gulf states. – animalNY

Oysters have been a favorite species of animal architecture both for their gastronomical value and their propensity for starting and sustaining complex ecosystems in harsh, even toxic conditions. We’ve discussed the positive impact of working with oysters before, in The Terroir. Maybe now is the time to reconsider their already significant role in the ecosystem.

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