Oyster reefs provide valuable habitat for a host of marine species, including popular game species, like this redfish.
Building oyster reefs for wildlife and people. In April 2010, before the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the ensuing oil spill, The Nature Conservancy, working with partners, began restoring 3.4 miles of oyster reefs off the coast of Louisiana that border some 350 acres of marshland. The Conservancy resumed the work in the fall of 2010 and completed the project in April of 2013.
Funding for the project is being provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The restoration sites are at Grand Isle and St. Bernard Parish marshes. (The Conservancy is also working to restore oyster reefs at Vermilion Bay in Louisiana. Learn more.)
Building a Reef
To build the oyster reefs at Grand Isle and St. Bernard Marsh, the Conservancy contracted with Coastal Environments, Inc., to construct interlocking triangular structures made of welded steel with space for mesh bags of oyster shells – a technique proven to be highly successful at the Conservancy's Mad Island Marsh Preserve in Texas. Once in place, these artificial reefs come alive as oyster larvae attach to the structures and grow.
The project also boosted the local economy by creating or maintaining 92 jobs – particularly important in these areas hit hard by hurricanes Katrina and Ike. NOAA provided over $4 million in Recovery Act Funding to the Conservancy for these projects as well as funding for seven other coastal restoration projects across the nation.
Louisiana State University has completed two years of monitoring the success of this project by measuring reef establishment, shoreline changes and improved habitat for other marine species. More monitoring will take places as funding becomes available.
Our partners at Grand Isle and St. Bernard Marshinclude:
· Coastal Environments, Inc.
· Louisiana State University
· Biloxi Marsh Lands Corp.
· Caminada Cove LLC
· Delacroix Corp.
· Loop Realty
· Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
· Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
· Jefferson Parish Gov.
· St. Bernard Parish Gov.
· Grand Isle Port Commission
· Town of Grand Isle