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Abstract

We present an analysis of Eastern oyster (Crassostreia virginica) production systems dominant in the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. We identify likely ranges of costs, returns, and ecosystem benefits associated with three production systems: commercial bottom production, commercial off-bottom aquaculture, and non-harvested reefs. We compile the limited and disparate literature on costs, yields, and returns associated with U.S. commercial oyster production. Benefits associated with commercial bottom production are expected to be less variable than off-bottom aquaculture and non-harvested reefs. Bottom production is expected to yield positive returns, whereas off-bottom aquaculture is equally likely to yield positive or negative returns. Off-bottom aquaculture has higher per-unit costs, but also higher per-unit revenues. Non-harvested reefs are expected to yield negative net benefits. Market benefits dwarf nonmarket benefits. Non-harvested reefs are generally expensive, but may provide benefits that commercial production systems do not, particularly shoreline protection and larvae for nearby harvested reefs.

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