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Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way
WEB MAGAZINE - September 2018

Invading oysters - a new coastal industry?

“If you can’t beat them, eat them”. Some companies in the Nordic region are already starting to think along these lines. Food companies in Norway have started harvesting and selling the oysters, and tourism ventures along the Danish coast have set up oyster safaris for tourists.

Since last year, a Nordic research project has been looking into the possibilities of harvesting and commercialising the Pacific oyster. It is now accepted there is no way to fight the invasive species.

Who owns the oysters?

“We’re trying to find out what we need to do before we can use the oysters as a resource. For example, we need to find out who ‘owns’ the oysters and who can harvest them. Food safety is also an issue,” says Stein Mortensen, researcher at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, and project manager.

The Pacific oyster was introduced to the Nordic region in the 1980s for farming. It requires a relatively high temperature to reproduce, but it is also extremely flexible and adaptable. Around 2006 came a dramatic development.

Bathing areas devastated

“The species suddenly started to spread very rapidly, starting in Denmark. It was then carried by currents to Bohuslän on the west coast of Sweden and the Oslo Fiord in Norway. Suddenly, there were millions of oysters around our coasts,” says Stein Mortensen.

The environmental agencies observed biological changes in the marine environment, and recreational and bathing areas were devastated. However, while this was happening, the fishing and food agencies had spotted a potential resource.

The Nordic project will balance these two perspectives – protecting the marine and coastal environments while looking into commercialising the Pacific oyster.

Bacteria and virus

The oyster is most easily harvested in shallow water – but here there are also dangers to health. Oysters can contain bacteria, toxic algae and viruses. To ensure they are safe and edible, the oysters must be checked and, if necessary, rinsed with sea water.

“It’s a fine product, and there are many exciting ways to cook it,” says Stein Mortensen, who has also written a cookery book based on the oyster.

Final report will provide answers

The findings of the research project will be presented in a report next year. The report will also present proposals as to what can be done, both to save the beaches and protected coasts and to exploit the oysters commercially.


Photo 1: Tommaso Cantelli/Unsplash

Photo 2: Jamie Hagan/Unsplash