That’s not a typo. According to a new report by Nature Conservancy scientists and partners, shellfish reefs worldwide have deteriorated over the last century to the verge of disappearance.
I’m a vegetarian, but this is bad news for me — and all of us. Why? Because shellfish reefs are critical in many places for more than just food. They provide shoreline protection from storms, water filtration and indispensable habitat for a cornucopia of marine life.
Not surprisingly, though, it’s the harvest data that boggle the mind: Wild capture rates of shellfish have plummeted from levels of 50-100 years ago, with only 10 ecoregions on Earth now reporting annual harvests above 1,000 tons, compared with millions of tons from across some 40 ecoregions a half-century ago.
The culprit, according to Conservancy shellfish expert and senior marine scientist Mike Beck, is that the reefs have been managed only for food harvest, not for their ecological value.
So are oysters doomed? No, says Beck. But saving them will require an immediate reversal of present reef management practices — from food first and only to food and conservation and restoration.
Wanna dive in further? Here’s the report. We recommend reading it on an empty stomach.