Oysters are most often found along the Atlantic Coasts and the Gulf of Mexico in North America. They live in estuaries, bays, tidal creeks and even in sounds. Oysters can survive in brackish- to full-strength seawater.

Oysters are highly adaptable and can learn to withstand a wide variety of conditions, including temperatures, salinity and sediment concentrations. Most oysters live in subtidal areas, but in South Carolina they prefer to live in the intertidal zone. Oysters feed by filtering phytoplankton through the water column in their shells. Oysters are an important addition to the coastal environment by protecting the shorelines from erosion and by providing a spawning substrate for fish.