CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The best way to restore an oyster reef habitat is literally, to build it, one oyster shell at a time. And, once these oyster shells hit the waters at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, the environmental benefits – can be seen almost immediately.
“Putting shells back into the water helps the environment and the economy,” said Gail Sutton, Assistant Director of the Harte Research Institute. “We are creating new habitat and saving shells from taking up landfill space. Oysters also serve as mini water treatment plants, and can filter up to 50 gallons of water, per day, per oyster. Their purpose is to keep our bays and estuaries clean.”
It is estimated that 85 percent of oyster reefs have disappeared, according to The Nature Conservancy.
The Department of Life Sciences at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies are looking for volunteers to help restore an oyster reef habitat on Saturday, April 25, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Goose Island State Park, 202 Palmetto St. in Rockport, Texas. In case of inclement weather, the event will be rescheduled. A second oyster bagging event will be held on Saturday, May 16, from 8:30-11:30 a.m.
Volunteers will bag up reclaimed oyster shells and carry those bags to the water to build an educational oyster reef. This innovative project recycles oyster shells back into the Gulf of Mexico waters and creates a habitat where young oysters can attach and grow, ensuring an abundance of the mollusks for future commercial harvests.
This “Sink Your Shucks” program is the first in Texas to reclaim more than 575,000 pounds of shucked oyster shells from Water Street Restaurant, Niko’s Steakhouse, Scuttlebutt’s Restaurant, and Groomer’s Seafood and return them to our local waters, providing substrate to form new reefs and habitat for fish, crabs, and other organisms.
The project is co-coordinated by Sutton and Dr. Jennifer Pollack of the University’s Life Sciences Department. Pollack, along with Sutton and Dr. Paul Montagna, developed the first oyster shell recycling program for the Texas Coastal Bend in November 2009.
Participants should wear closed-toe shoes (old tennis shoes are perfect), clothes that can get wet and dirty, sunscreen, and a hat. Work gloves and shovels will be provided.
Volunteers will receive a free T-shirt for signing up. Drinks and snacks will be provided. To RSVP, call the Harte Research Institute at 361.825.2020. For more information, go to http://www.oysterrecycling.org/.