Tampa Bay Watch volunteers install an oyster shell bar to help provide habitats for fish and wildlife resources.
DUNEDIN – Tampa Bay Watch, in partnership with MarineMax, will install an oyster shell bar on Oct. 11-12, along the shoreline of Honeymoon Island.
Each day, 40 volunteers will assist with the project, including employees from MarineMax on Saturday, Oct. 12. The project involves shoveling fossilized shells into mesh bags, and then transporting and installing the shell bags to create a series of oyster reefs. The goal of the project is to help provide hard-bottom habitats for fish and wildlife resources, promote water quality improvements in the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and reestablish oyster communities.
This project is the first phase of the creation of seven new oyster reef systems offshore of Honeymoon Island State Park. The location is adjacent to the Honeymoon Island Visitors Center allowing the opportunity for long-term educational opportunities for visitors, residents and youth program field trips. Estuaries like St. Joseph’s Sound and Tampa Bay are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems in the world. More than 85 percent of all fish, shellfish and crustaceans spend some part of their lives in the protected estuarine waters of coastal wetlands.
In the last 100 years, Tampa Bay has been overwhelmed by urban development, severely impacting water quality, natural resources, and wildlife populations dependent on a healthy estuarine habitat.
Creation of these oyster communities are proposed to help provide hard bottom habitats for fish and wildlife resources, promote water quality improvements in the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and reestablish oyster communities. This oyster shell project is in partnership with Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida State Parks, the Mosaic Company Foundation and MarineMax.
The goal of Tampa Bay Watch’s Community Oyster Reef Enhancement program is to increase the oyster population in Tampa Bay and, at the same time, provide habitats for small organisms, prevent erosion, improve water quality and promote fish and wildlife habitats. In addition, this project benefits the Tampa Bay community by promoting environmental awareness and offering hands-on experience in habitat restoration.
Oyster shell bars will be constructed similar to natural oyster communities found along shoreline areas throughout Tampa Bay. Fossilized oyster shell from local shell mines provide a hard surface for oyster larvae to settle upon and grow, eventually forming a natural reef.
Tampa Bay Watch is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) stewardship program dedicated exclusively to the charitable and scientific purpose of protecting and restoring the marine and wetland environments of the Tampa Bay estuary encompassing over 400 square miles of open water and 2,300 square miles of highly-developed watershed. Tampa Bay Watch involves more than 10,000 youth and adult volunteers each year in hands on habitat restoration projects.