The Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica), also known as the American Oyster, Atlantic Oyster, or Virginia Oyster, is a species of oyster that is native to the eastern seaboard of North America. It is also farmed in Puget Sound, Washington, where it is known as the Totten Inlet Virginica.
Like all oysters, the Eastern Oyster is a hard shellfish that comes in several different sizes, usually 2 to 6 inches long. It has hard edges that supply a tough shield against predators. They are popular on the market, so much so that only 1% of the number that existed when the early colonists came to America in the sixteenth century now remains.
This particular type of oyster has an important environmental value. Like all oysters, Crassostrea virginica is a filter feeder. They suck in water and filter out the plankton and detritus to swallow, then spit the water back out, thus cleaning the water around them and getting rid of much of the eastern Chesapeake Bay’s notorious water pollution.
People catch and eat these oysters, mainly in the spring, and (in Maryland) catch about 35,000 to 40,000 bushels of oysters a year. This has resulted in the decline of the numbers of C. virginica.