Tampa Bay watch creates oyster reef as part of restoration project

A group of people surrounding a truck delivering more than 20 tons of fossilized shells.

Part of Tampa Bay Watch’s Community Oyster Reef Enhancement (CORE) program, the oyster shell bag program creates oyster reefs similar to natural oyster communities found along shoreline areas throughout Tampa Bay. These bags give Tampa Bay Watch the flexibility to create different shapes and sizes of oyster reefs in a variety of settings.

Weighing in at about 35 lbs. each, the shell bags are installed in areas with lower wave energy but good tidal flow. Featuring abundant nooks and crannies, oyster larva will attach all over and inside of the bags, creating a productive and enhanced habitat.

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Tampa Bay Watch spring restoration projects

Despite their artificial nature, Alafia Bank and Islands 2D and 3D are critical breeding sites for several species of wading birds, shorebirds, and larids. Alafia Bank ranks with Washburn Sanctuary (Lower Tampa Bay IBA) as the most diverse colonial waterbird rookery site in Florida. This IBA also supports large numbers of migrant and wintering shorebirds. Only a rudimentary bird list is available.

Tampa Bay Watch, along with hundreds of volunteers also created a living shoreline at LAssing Park in St. Petersburg. The total project required 100 tons of fossilized shell and 792 oyster reef balls to construct 8,384 sq. ft. of new oyster communities. A second layer of 3,184 sq. ft. of bagged fossilized shell will be added to give the oyster communities more relief.

Creating a living shoreline in St. Pete

The Lo-Pro Reef Ball oyster reef balls are constructed of marine-friendly concrete, weighing about 200 lbs. each. The reef balls feature holes where oyster larvae can enter and attach to the inside, creating a productive habitat while preventing erosion threatening the shoreline.

Tampa Bay Watch works with local municipalities, government agencies, and other environmental organizations to identify priority restoration sites around Tampa Bay. Once a site has been identified, Tampa Bay Watch designs the best project for the location, secures the necessary local, state, and federal permits, and coordinates and implements the hands-on community-based habitat restoration projects.

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities with Tampa Bay Watch on their website. Follow Tampa Bay Watch on Facebook and Instagram.

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