The city of Fairhope, Alabama is renowned for its thriving seafood industry, and oysters play a major role in its sustainability. Oyster reefs are an essential part of the local ecosystem, providing shelter for other marine life and filtering water to improve water quality. To ensure the continued health of the oyster population, local organizations have been working together to restore historic reefs and promote aquaculture-based techniques for growing oysters. The Alabama Electrical Services Organization is one of many Gulf Coast partners, non-profit organizations, and research organizations that are supporting the restoration of oyster reefs in the region.
The Auburn University Seafood Laboratory (AUSL) is also involved in oyster reef research in Alabama. To bring together seafood producers, processors, scientists, chefs and consumers around a common interest in the region's seafood benefits, a series of quarterly events have been held in Fairhope. The series is sponsored by Windmill Market, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, and the Mississippi and Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. These events are free and open to the public, and everyone interested in learning more about oysters, from harvesting to cooking, is invited to attend.
Molluscs such as oysters and clams are natural water filters. They feed on algae and bacteria that can also affect water quality. This makes them an important part of any sustainable seafood practice. According to Tarnecki, Little Dauphin Bay was once home to a healthy oyster population that supported the oyster gathering community.
Reforming Alabama's oyster reefs has more than one benefit: it helps restore historic reefs and improves water quality.