The Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas was first introduced as an exotic species by oyster farmers in 1964 in the Oosterschelde estuary (SW Netherlands). The initial phase is not well documented but first natural spatfall was recorded in 1975. Excessive spatfall occurred in 1976 and this is considered the start of the expansion phase of the wild oysters. Oyster beds in intertidal and subtidal areas of the Oosterschelde estuary have been growing since. The development in the intertidal area has been reconstructed by using aerial photography, validated by ground truth in 2000¿2002. In the subtidal areas extensive oyster beds have been detected by using side scan sonar; on hard substrates along the dikes coverage with oysters up to 90% locally has been recorded by scuba diving surveys. Expansion has also occurred into adjacent water bodies including the Wadden Sea. By forming resistant reefs the oysters induce structural changes in the ecosystem. It is concluded that bed area is still expanding while decrease of the fraction live animals may indicate adjustment of the stock size to the local conditions.
- wadden sea