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Links between environment, oysters and human health

Owing to the success of a certain oyster growing operation off Chincoteague Island, VA, not to mention the intelligence and charm of the grower, some of the local townsfolk have become interested in starting their own oyster operations. They have asked you, as an environmental expert from outside the area, to help them decide whether it makes sense environmentally to do so. They want to know (briefly):

a. The links between environment, oysters and human health

b. Chincoteague Bay's environmental problems, now, or perhaps in the near future

c. Your recommendations, based on a and b

Some notes to guide you:
? The current operation is in an approved shellfish harvest area of Chincoteague Bay, immediately off the northwest part of Chincoteague Island
? Oysters can be grown and harvested in any area that is not closed to shellfish harvesting
? The Virginia State Department of Health regulates shellfish harvest areas
? Chincoteague is in Accomack County
? Please cite your information sources for part b

Solution Preview

a.) The connection between the ocean environment and human health goes beyond looking at human disease and the quality of our seafood. A clean and functional marine environment relates to many aspects of human health and quality of life through economics, aesthetics, as a food source, and as a source of recreation. If that environment is degraded, our health and lives are affected in many ways, but most people still have difficulty seeing it in a global manner.

Oysters have several roles in the environment, all related to human health. First, they are filter feeders so their health is a pretty good indicator of the overall health of an ecosystem. When they are healthy, they in turn maintain the coastline's health.

Of course most people are familiar with the fact that polluted waters provide an environment in which bacteria infect oysters. People who consume infected oysters usually become severely sick, sometimes leading to organ failure or death.

In terms of the economy, when oyster beds are lost to disease or another environmental stressor, the resulting consequences are catastrophic for those who make their living-harvesting oysters.

The individual health of oysters and how they respond to disease ...

Solution Summary

The connection between the ocean environment and human health goes beyond looking at human disease and the quality of our seafood. A clean and functional marine environment relates to many aspects of human health and quality of life through economics, aesthetics, as a food source, and as a source of recreation. If that environment is degraded, our health and lives are affected in many ways, but most people still have difficulty seeing it in a global manner.

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