This weekend Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is in need of volunteers to help restore the oyster reef at Goose Island State Park.
The oyster recycling program started in 2009, and it could not be done without the help of volunteers.
Every year 2.7 million pounds of oysters are harvested from Texas bays. With the help of the community, more than 1 million pounds of oyster shells have been returned back into our bays to create important habitat.
"This is important to the community because it is a good way to give back to the environment, and there is something for everybody to do, young and old," said A&M-Corpus Christi Research Associate Terry Palmer.
Oyster shells are collected from local restaurants and seafood wholesalers to help build a living shoreline. The reef acts like a breakwater; the waves will break on the reef instead and protect softer salt marsh on the coast.
"Oysters are filter feeders; they actually filter out large quantities of water and improve our local bays as well protect our shorelines, and they support our recreational and commercial fisheries,"said A&M-Corpus Christi Research Associate Meghan Martinez.
More than 5 acres of oyster reef habitat have been restored through the Mission-Aransas Estuary using 2,400 cubic yards of recycled oyster shells and crushed concrete.
"In some places there is a lot of over-harvesting of oysters and a lot of removal of substrate that the oysters need to settle and grow. So by putting these shells back, that provides them with a place for the stocks to be re-nourished," said Palmer.
"We know that oysters need other oysters to settle because baby oysters like to settle on adult oysters. They need a place to settle. So this is the best way for us to put places out for new oysters to grow, and we need that to happen soon," said A&M-Corpus Christi Research Associate Natasha Breaux.
Volunteers are needed Saturday, April 7 and Saturday, May 5, from 8:30-11:30 a.m.
Volunteers will receive a FREE t-shirt to wear on the day of the event. Gloves, water and snacks will be provided but volunteers are encouraged to wear sturdy closed-toed, closed backed shoes, a hat and sunscreen.
Volunteers will work at one of four stations:
Station 1: Volunteers will create bags out of mesh.
Station 2: Oyster shells will be shoveled into the bags.
Station 3: Bags will be shuttled from Station 2 up to the staging area on the Goose Island State Park fishing pier.
Station 4: A line will be formed and the bags will be passed down to the water where they will be placed in the new reef.
The project is co-coordinated by Gail Sutton, chief operating officer at the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies and Dr. Jennifer Pollack, assistant professor of marine biology.
Pollack, along with Sutton and Dr. Paul Montagna, endowed chair for ecosystem studies and modeling at the HRI, developed the first oyster shell recycling program for the Texas Coastal Bend in November 2009.
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