PEARLS OF WISDOM...
The Marine Conservation Society’s Hannah Lee reveals everything you need to know about the humble oyster
DID you know oysters could help save the world? Hannah Lee of the Marine Conservation Society tells us about these unselfish shellfish.
Where do oysters live?
Oysters can live in saltwater or freshwater in rivers, estuaries or the sea.
In the UK we have one native species – the European native oyster. We also have one other species which is known as ‘non-native’ meaning they were introduced from somewhere else to the UK, called the Pacific oyster.
Due to overfishing in the 1800s, wild European native oysters are somewhat of a rarity and conservation groups and researchers are working to increase numbers around the UK.
Can oysters move about under water?
Oyster babies or larvae leave the parent oyster and float through the water to a new home. When they find somewhere to live they land and stick or cement themselves to rocks, shells and even other oysters. The oyster will then stay in one place.
What do oysters eat?
Oysters are filter feeders which means they suck up food floating around in the water. They will suck up almost anything which floats by and is small enough like mud, sand, or phytoplankton. They will then use their gills to filter and eat the best bits – the rest gets pooped out!
Do all oysters have pearls in them?
No, and some species are better at making pearls than others.
Pearls are formed when a bit of sand or dirt gets inside the oyster’s shell and they cover the particle in mother-of-pearl to prevent it from scratching their soft bodies and causing damage.
What do you like about oysters?
I love their shells. They grow very slowly over time and each one is unique.
When an oyster dies, the shell can stay on the sea floor for hundreds or thousands of years and sometimes washes up on our beaches.
Can oysters help save the planet?
In many ways, yes! Oysters are known as ecosystem engineers – they create habitat for other ocean animals. When it comes to restoring oysters to our estuaries and seas the groups working on this hope oysters will help draw carbon from seawater to seafloor, improve water quality, provide coastal protection, increase the diversity of ocean animals, support fisheries and stabilise the seabed.