Oyster Garden Reef Restoration

By Jene’ Young: Meteorologist, WKRG News 5

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I first told you about oyster gardening two months ago.
What is Oyster Gardening?

Now it’s time to deploy the grown oysters!
With the help of three seniors from Alma Bryant High School, science teacher Lynn Stuart, Project Coordinator Kara Lankford with Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, and Aquaculture Specialist P.J. Waters, the process was tedious.
Alex Callister said, “I don’t know if it’s hard work if you enjoy it the whole time.”
Oysters are big hit with seafood lovers, but they also play a big role in keeping Mobile Bay clean.
P.J. Waters describes oysters as a natural filter system.”Through their natural feeding process they help filter the water. The more oysters we have the better the filtration process.”
Silt, mud and other debris from recent hurricanes have covered up and suffocated many oyster reefs.”What we do is help stock the reefs that were here, or that are here and need a little help.”
Lankford describes the oysters when the volunteers in Mobile and Baldwin Counties first get them in July. “The oysters are are about 4 millimeters, which is the size of your thumbnail. And right now, some of them are reaching two inches in size, so they grow very fast down here.”
Before the oysters are dropped off in Mobile Bay, the group has to collect the oysters from each volunteer’s pier and load them on a truck.
Once the oysters are collected, boats take us out to the reef, south of Fowl River.
This year the volunteers grew over 60,000 oysters. An additional 37,000 oysters were donated from Auburn University Shellfish Lab.
Once we reach the restoration reef, the oysters are tossed into the Bay.
All three students describe the job as messy, but wouldn’t change anything about the program.
Danielle King, an exchange student from New Zealand likes the “field trip.”"It’s the hands on part that I like about it because it gets you out of the classroom and gets us doing stuff that we actually talk about.”
The restoration site south of Fowl River was chosen due to the dry weather. The salinity levels at this site should help increase the oysters chance for survival.
Waters said, “This reef is located north of what would be considered open shellfish harvesting area, so you are not permitted to harvest this reef.”
For more information about the program, check out the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program: Oyster Gardening

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