Oyster Reef Ecology: Habitat Value
Recruitment is the process of incorporating new oysters into a population. In the summer months, adult oysters produce millions of microscopic larvae. After a two to three week free-swimming larval cycle, young oysters permanently cement to hard surfaces, preferably other oyster shell.
If there are not enough recruits to offset losses due to natural mortality and harvesting, a population will decline. Such a population might be referred to as “recruitment-limited”. SCDNR monitors oyster recruitment and early growth annually by deploying trays filled with oyster shell for 9-12 months and then counting and measuring all the live oysters.
This method has been in use since 1998, with trays deployed at 6 to 30 sites per year. Average statewide recruitment is more than 4,000 oysters per square meter. The 2004-5 recruitment year was the highest on record, with a statewide average of 6,650 oysters per square meter. Oyster populations in South Carolina are not recruitment-limited.