Published on: 04/05/09
Development and distribution of the non-indigenous Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) in the Dutch Wadden Sea
Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) were first observed in the Dutch Wadden Sea near Texel in 1983. The population increased slowly in the beginning but grew exponentially from the mid-1990s onwards, although now some stabilisation seems to be occurring. They occur on a variety of substrates such as mussel beds (Mytilus edulis), shell banks, dikes and poles. After initial settlement spat may fall on older individuals and congregate to dense clumps and subsequently form reefs. Individual Pacific oysters grow 3–4 cm long in their first year and 2–3 cm in their second year. Many mussel beds (Mytilus edulis) are slowly taken over by Pacific oysters, but there are also several reports of mussel spat settling on Pacific oyster reefs. This might in the end result in combined reefs. Successful Pacific oyster spat fall seems to be related to high summer temperatures, but also after mild summers much spat can be found on old (Pacific oyster) shells. Predation is of limited importance. Mortality factors are unknown, but every now and then unexplained mass mortality occurs. The gradual spread of the Pacific oyster in the Dutch Wadden Sea is documented in the first instance based on historical and anecdotal information. At the start of the more in-depth investigation in 2002, Pacific oysters of all size classes were already present near Texel. Near Ameland the development could be followed from the first observed settlement. On dense reefs each square metre may contain more than 500 adult Pacific oysters, weighing more than 100 kg per m2 fresh weight.