Brevard Zoo, Melbourne Florida
Oysters: One Selfless Shellfish
The oyster restoration project is as unique and diverse as the estuary it works to restore. The Indian River Lagoon is the most biologically diverse estuary in the continental United States with over 4,000 plant and animal species considering it home. This treasure exists right here in our own back yards and needs our help!
Why oysters?! Oysters are filter feeders that improve water quality and clarity by filtering water –one oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day! Oysters are also a food source and provide habitat for many species of fish, birds, and invertebrates, and oyster reefs stabilize and protect shorelines. But, oysters face a number of threats including overharvesting, habitat degradation, reduced water quality, disease, and boat wakes.
The Oyster Reef Restoration Project was started in 2005 by Dr. Linda Walters of the University of Central Florida and now includes Brevard Zoo and many community partners. The oyster mats—constructed from mesh and oyster shells—are placed in the Indian River Lagoon to provide a natural substrate for oyster larvae to settle. Results show that the oyster mat restoration technique as very successful - after one year in the water, an average of 93 new oysters settled on each mat!
This project is a community based restoration project, which means that without the help of our friends and neighbors we can’t save our lagoon. Thanks to approximately 36,000 volunteers since the project started, together with the project partners, we constructed more than 35,000 oyster restoration mats to restore 61 reefs in Mosquito Lagoon.
The project is recognized in schools, parks, and even in the lagoon by boaters as a community project that is working to save these selfless shellfish. If the oyster population becomes stabilized, it will mean a cleaner, clearer, less eroded lagoon with an abundance of habitats for 149 species. All of these goals are possible, with the help of community volunteers eager to help.
Contact Project Coordinator Jody Palmer at JPalmer@BrevardZoo.org to learn more or just stay tuned to the ZACC blog for exciting updates on the project!
Be sure to check your community for a shellfish restoration project as there are many great efforts happening all over the globe. If nothing else, be sure to recycle your oyster shells by returning them to your local bay or estuary where they can be a habitat for lots of little friends in need!
Keep on shuckin’!!
Oyster Restoration Project Coordinator
8225 N. Wickham Rd.
Melbourne, FL 32940
321.254.9453 ext. 265