World’s Second Largest Oyster Producer Working Towards More Sustainable Practices

Since the 1960s, the Tongyeong region of South Korea has been an oyster producing mecca. And for the first time, stakeholders are coming together to ensure it stays that way.

Second only to China in terms of volume, South Korea produces roughly 260,000 tons of oysters annually, both for domestic consumption and for export to the United States, Japan, Canada, and the European Union. The Tongyeong region is home to 80% of this production, making it a key component of South Korea’s vibrant oyster industry.

However, South Korea’s crown jewel of oyster production faces a number of challenges; the estimated six million styrofoam buoys used in the fishery degrade overtime and leech microplastics into the surrounding region; sediment pollution is high; and recent outbreaks of oyster disease have been documented.

To address these issues we’re generating international support and convening local knowledge towards the goal of launching a Tongyeong oyster fisheries improvement project to ensure a healthy and sustainable Tongyeong oyster fishery.

Led by our team on the ground in South Korea, we recently convened over 70 stakeholders—oyster producers, local and regional government officials, NGOs, and academics—for the first-ever Tongyeong oyster improvement workshop.

South Korea Tongyeong oyster fisheries Tongyeong improvement project participants include O2's Korea Program Director and representatives from the local oyster fisheries and the Korea Maritime Institute's Department of Farming and Industry. © Ocean Outcomes

Structured as an open discussion table, the full-day event had participation from the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, the South Gyeongsang province government, the Tongyeong oyster producers cooperative, South Korea’s National Institute of Fisheries Science, Delisea Seafood, Tongyeong oyster producer cooperative, Songeyong Fisheries, the Korea Maritime Institute, the Cheongsan Sea Institute, among others.

By the end of the workshop, participants reached a common understanding of the challenges facing the fishery and agreed on the need for collective action through improvement work.