LITTLE EGG HARBOR, N.J. (AP) — Oysters were once so abundant in American waters that boats would run aground on them, Indians would feast on them, and vacationers would grab handfuls to roast for dinner.
But over the centuries, rampant development, pollution, overharvesting and disease drastically reduced the number of oysters; many researchers and volunteer groups estimate oyster populations are down 85 percent from their levels in the 1800s.
That has prompted efforts throughout the coastal United States to establish new oyster colonies, or add to struggling colonies that already exist. Though small in scale, the efforts are numerous and growing, and they have a unified goal: showing that oysters can be successfully restored in the wild, paving the way for larger scale efforts and the larger funding they will require.
Helen Henderson of New Jersey’s American Littoral Society says the groups aim to give nature “a kick-start,” adding most of the efforts are succeeding.