Volunteer efforts using oysters to clean the Indian River Lagoon

ACCORDING TO THE CHESAPEAKE BAY FOUNDATION each adult oyster filters and cleans up to 50 gallons of water per day. One oyster shell can support up to five oysters. At this rate they filter and clean 250 gallons per day. They are natural filters, removing pollutants from the Lagoon. They also clarify the water allowing sunlight to reach the sea grass that grows on the Lagoon floor.

In conjunction with the Sunshine Vero Beach Rotary Club, Vero Beach Power Squadron members, students, Boys & Girls Club, Gifford Youth Activity Center and Boy Scout members have been volunteering to make 16-inch square mats with 36 shucked oyster shells per mat. These oyster mats are tied together to form a “quilt” of mats that are placed and anchored around an existing oyster bed of live oysters.

​ 16-inch square mats with 36 shucked oyster shells per mat

When the live oysters release their larvae in early April, the larvae will attach to the oyster mat shells (each shell acting like a catchers mitt) and grow new adult oysters.

The program initially began with 1,200 mats and an additional 2,000 were added in April 2015.

With a total of 3,200 total mats, that oyster population would clean 2,102,400,000 gallons per year. Not to mention that some shells can contain five oysters.

The importance of an oyster clarifying the water for the sunlight to reach the sea grass is this:

Manatees eat sea grass.

Baby fish are spawned in mangroves, where the roots are like claws, and in sea grass, where the babies are protected from predators. Without sea grass there will be no baby fish for birds such as Pelicans, Herons and Egrets to eat. Without adolescent fish there will not be anything for dolphins and predator fish–snook, tarpon, and sea trout–to eat.

Expanding the oyster population is one of the best ways to help Mother Nature recover from the dramatic loss of the Lagoon’s sea grasses and marine life as a result of the algae bloom that choked off oxygen to the sea grasses.

We extend a special thanks to Toby Jarman of the Vero Beach Power Squadron for spearheading these efforts and contributing to this article. “Our next priority is to work with other communities to replicate this endeavor and we are currently working with groups in Ft. Pierce to do so,” he said. “These little fellows are miracle workers.”

For further information on how you can volunteer and support this cause please contact Toby at jotoby@moonriveriii.com.

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