Since the beginning of last month, the food world has been abuzz with news that the precious wild oyster is nearing extinction. A new survey by BioScience looked at the historical and present states of oyster reefs, noting that fewer than 85% of reefs worldwide have been lost and wild populations are "functionally extinct." Most oyster reefs are off the coast of North America. Those off the East and West Coasts of the United States are in particularly bad condition. There are some on the gulf of Mexico, though, that the survey says may still become large-scale sustainable sites for conservation and harvest.
While the destruction of natural habitats is certainly tragic, the gastronomic uproar may be misguided. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, 95% of the oysters served in restaurants are farmed, not harvested from the wild, a connection the report did not explicitly make.
The real impact of these reefs' demise is in erosion patterns and natural seawater filtration, two functions oysters serve ecologically. These disappearing reefs are still a big concern for scientists.
So while it's great news that a famed aphrodisiac, this is a also great opportunity to be conscious of where food comes from, whether wild or farmed, and contemplate its impact.