Oysters from the Gulf of Mexico were once named for the bays where they grew wild. Their abundance provided irreplaceable filtering, shoreline stabilization, habitat for juvenile fish, not to mention food and livelihoods for people. Today, that once-plentiful resource, and all it represented, is desperately depleted.
In almost every coastal region across the country, dedicated organizations and tireless volunteers are working to reestablish viable oyster beds. Most projects are small scale, labor-intensive, high cost, and high risk. Scaling these efforts to a level that can meet the enormous need for restoration nationwide poses significant financial and logistical barriers.
“The oyster fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico need to be managed for what they represent: likely the last opportunity in the world to achieve both large-scale reef conservation and sustainable fisheries.”
—Shellfish Reefs at Risk: A Global Analysis of Problems and Solutions
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), a long-time and primary investor in oyster restoration, commissioned Future of Fish to analyze the current state of oyster restoration in the US. We used a discovery framework to identify opportunities to reduce costs, increase efficiency, spur entrepreneurship, and leverage other non-conventional approaches that could drive and sustain large-scale restoration. Those opportunities included two strategies for enhancing existing restoration efforts, three market mechanisms for driving change, and two policy initiatives to support and incentivize restoration.