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Volunteers to build oyster reef offshore Honeymoon Island
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Photo courtesy of TAMPA BAY WATCH
Volunteers work on a past Tampa Bay Watch oyster shell bar project.
DUNEDIN - Tampa Bay Watch, in partnership with the Mosaic Company Foundation, will install a series of oyster shell bars off the shoreline of Honeymoon Island on the mornings of Dec. 13 and 14. Approximately forty volunteers will assist with the project on each day. The project involves shoveling fossilized shell 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 second phase of the creation of seven new oyster reef systems (approximately 8,850 sq. ft.) 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, urban development has overwhelmed Tampa Bay, severely impacting water quality, natural resources, and wildlife populations dependent on a healthy estuarine habitat.

Creation of these oyster communities 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 and the Mosaic Company Foundation.

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 simulate the 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.

For more information about the project or to sign up to volunteer, visit www.t­ampab­aywat­ch.or­g.

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 more than 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.
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