Oyster Reef Restoration
Oyster reefs once dominated the country’s coastal estuaries but have been the most severely impacted marine habitat on Earth. Globally over 85% of reefs have been lost due to decades of over-harvesting, disease, pollution and declining habitat. Unfortunately they are essential to a health marine environment.
Just as coral reefs are critical to tropical marine habitats, oyster reefs are the ecosystem engineers of bays and estuaries. They provide important services by:
- cleaning water – a single oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons per day
- providing food and habitat for a diversity of plants and animals, including fish, crabs and birds
- serving as natural coastal buffers from boat wakes, sea-level rise and storms.
Oyster reef sanctuaries are created by building on previously viable oyster producing sites. These reefs attract native oyster larvae, as well as clams, juvenile finfish, crabs and marine organisms, which in turn attract larger fish, enhancing hook-and-line fishing. Harvest of oysters and the use of bottom disturbing gear are prohibited in the sanctuaries, allowing a brood stock of oysters to develop.
- Made up of many individual oysters
- Provide homes for many organisms
- Protect shorelines from erosion
- Found at parks with coastal estuaries