Taking Care of The Bay
Shellfish aquaculture is sustainable because it does not damage the environment or jeopardize future productivity. No fertilizers, feeds, herbicides, drugs, or chemicals are used in the farming of our oysters and we only use durable, long-life, non-polluting materials.
Oysters filter water
An adult oyster can filter between 50 and 60 gallons of water per day. Historical oyster populations filtered the entire Chesapeake Bay in three to six days! It now takes the current oyster population about a year to filter the same amount of water.
The average person releases about 12 pounds of nitrogen a year, a lot of which enters and acidifies our waters. Oysters filter nitrogen. When they are harvested they take even more with them. In 2013, Ruby Salts will have filtered over 80 pounds of nitrogen while in the water and over 40 pounds when harvested; enough to balance the nitrogen footprint of 10 people! By 2016, that number increases to 40!
Oysters provide habitat
Our oyster racks and cages are similar to wild reefs in that they serve as natural breakwaters that protect our shorelines from erosion and provide habitat for fish, shrimp, crabs, and other animals. Oysters promote eelgrass survival in waters that have not supported seagrass for decades providing food and habitat for waterfowl, fish, shellfish and invertebrates.
Oysters are important to the community
Recent growth of the aquaculture shellfish industry in Virginia has added significant value to the State’s seafood marketplace. Many jobs and economies depend on the shellfish in our waters. A report released by Virginia Sea Grant and Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) estimates oyster farming generated $15.4 million in revenue in 2014, an increase of $4.3 million from 2013. Over 57 million oysters were sold by Virginia growers last year!
What can you do to help?
Ruby Salts will collect your shells at any community event we attend. For the Richmond events, such as the St. Stephen’s Farmer’s Market, we partner with the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program at the VCU Rice Rivers Center to collect and donate your shells in support of Chesapeake Bay restoration. Learn about their program here. Visit their Facebook page for a list of participating Richmond restaurants.
Yellow Umbrella Provisions is the first public receiving site in Richmond to collect oyster shells for the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program.
You can also donate your empty shells to Chesapeake Bay Foundation so they can recycle them into more oyster reefs and repopulate the Bay with more oysters. Oyster shells are literally the foundation of their restoration efforts. Click here for drop off locations.
Reduce ocean acidification
Every day, the ocean absorbs approximately one-third of the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels and clear land. When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it becomes an acid. This acid is lowering the pH of ocean water making it harder for oysters to make shells – they essentially dissolve in the more acidic water. Acidification makes it harder for animals in general to breathe. It makes fish grow oversized ear bones, affecting their ability to orient themselves in the water. It even makes the ocean noisier, by increasing the efficiency of sound transmission.
As individuals, we can all take simple actions to reduce ocean acidification including turning off lights, inflate car tires to proper pressure, and putting high energy-using items like water heaters on timers.
Buy farm raised vs. wild oysters
The effort to remove oysters from the water for human consumption has far surpassed the ability of the oysters to naturally replenish their numbers. Farmed oysters take the harvesting pressure off the natural populations so they can reproduce and replenish old oyster beds in the Bay to improve water quality.
Oysters are a “best choice” The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program creates science-based recommendations that help consumers and businesses make ocean-friendly seafood choices. Oysters are a ‘best choice’ because they are well managed, caught or farmed in environmentally responsible ways.