Delicious, Sustainable Shellfish That Are Improving the Environment
Ballard Fish and Oyster Company and its family of companies, Cherrystone Aqua-Farms and Chincoteague Shellfish Farms, are committed to providing healthy, ecologically beneficial, and sustainable products. Our farm-raised clams and oysters are grown in the high-salinity, oceanflushed waters surrounding the Eastern Shore of Virginia—the same location where much of the available wild shellfish is harvested. And because they are grown in the same open water, our shellfish feed on the same naturally-occurring organisms as their wild counterparts do, making their flavor equally delicious. What’s the difference? Our cultured shellfish are sustainable and available year-round.
How is Aquaculture Sustainable?
Shellfish aquaculture has proven to be sustainable because it is a “put and take” fishery and is not susceptible to over-harvesting. Juvenile shellfish are raised in a hatchery and then planted in the wild to be harvested years later. Only shellfish planted in the first place are harvested, resulting in a neutral effect on shellfish populations.
Why shellfish are good for the environment.
Simply by feeding, shellfish improve water quality by filtering microscopic particles from the water. This process removes sediments and phytoplankton and their associated nutrients. As they feed, some of the nitrogen is incorporated into protein and the rest is deposited on the bottom, where it is consumed by natural organisms.
As the sediments and phytoplankton are removed, both the water clarity and light penetration are improved, thus providing a better habitat for sea grasses and other desirable water plants. This process also reduces anoxia (low oxygen). A single oyster can clear more than 25 gallons of water a day.
Recent studies have shown that shellfish aquaculture improves species abundance and diversity in addition to providing habitats for juvenile fish, crabs and other organisms.
Cultured clams and oysters have received a thumbs up from environmental groups such as Seafood Watch, Blue Ocean Institute, New England Aquarium, FishWise, Sea Choice, the Environmental Defense, the Chef ’s Collaborative’s Seafood Solutions, and others that work to steer consumers toward sustainably harvested seafood.