Restoration Works

Oyster Reefs

Oysters for People and Nature  

Oysters are a delicacy, often enjoyed with lemon and hot sauce. But this hard working shellfish has tremendous value as the ecosystem engineers of our bays and estuaries, filtering water, providing a natural barrier to storm waves and sealevel rise and adding habitat for fish and other marine life.

But shellfish reefs worldwide have declined at an alarming rate. A recent Conservancy-led study found 85 percent of oyster reefs globally have been lost due to overharvesting, pollution, and habitat loss. Remaining oysters are unable to fulfill their historic ecological and economic roles in most bays and tributaries leaving protection and restoration of healthy oyster reefs as urgent conservation priorities.   

Restoration in Action

In Texas, the Conservancy is undertaking one of the largest oyster reef restoration projects in the country – restoring 45-acres of Half Moon Reef in Matagorda Bay. This type of restoration work offers the Gulf Coast a jumpstart of sorts: an individual oyster can filter around 50 gallons of water each day; a healthy one-acre reef filters approximately 24 million gallons of water daily.

In other words, these reefs play a major role in building and maintaining coastal resiliency and enhancing and improving water quality. And with 207 estuaries and 30 major rivers draining into the Gulf—approximately 40,000 gallons of water flows into Matagorda Bay every second—oysters’ natural water filtration process becomes incredibly important in keeping the ecosystem healthy and balanced.

One thing is certain: Keeping the Gulf healthy is paramount for both nature and people. The Lone Star State has more than 3,000 shoreline miles of Gulf Coast bays, lagoons and estuaries, and nearly one-quarter of Texas’ population lives along the Gulf Coast.

Half Moon Reef will also provide important habitat for fish, shellfish, birds and other animals of the Texas Coast and the wider Gulf. Matagorda Bay is already one of the most productive fisheries for blue crabs, oysters and shrimp in Texas and the restoration will play a key role in protecting and enhancing that productivity.

Oysters are arguably one of nature’s hardest working species – and they work along the coast from New Hampshire to Texas, Washington State to South Carolina. To read more about how the Conservancy is restoring oysters for people and nature, explore our stories below. 


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