** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

#07-100 April 2, 2007

Volunteers help to restore oyster habitat

Volunteers continue to support oyster habitat and restoration with shell bagging efforts.

Recently, students from Winthrop University, James Island Charter High School and Illinois State University volunteered their time and service to bag recycled oyster shells at the Marine Resources Division for the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) program. The success of the SCORE program depends on the help of volunteers to bag recycled oyster shells, construct reefs and monitor water quality parameters at designated reef sites.

The S. C. Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) program has thrived since its inception in 2000, and has been nationally recognized for the cooperative work of scientists and volunteers to restore and enhance oyster habitat. With assistance from more than 3000 volunteers, the SCORE program has created 128 reefs at 29 different sites along the coast of South Carolina.

For additional information on the SCORE program, contact Nancy Hadley, SCORE program coordinator for DNR at (843) 953-9841.

The SCORE program hosts year-round volunteer opportunities, and groups work to fill mesh bags and recruitment trays with recycled oyster shells during the fall and winter, and assist with theReplanted oyster shells construction and enhancement of reef sites during the spring and summer. The work to prepare oysters for community reef planting consists of raking recycled shells into recruitment trays for reef site assessment, a scientific check to monitor specific characteristics and determine if the area is suitable for oyster cultivation. Volunteers also fill mesh bags with recycled shells, which are later neatly planted in rows along reef sites suitable for habitat growth.

By planting reef sites with bagged shells, larval oysters in the water attach to the substrate and grow to form living habitats, also attracting other species such as shrimp, crabs and fish. As filter feeders, oysters work to remove sediment and control algal blooms by filtering as much as 50 gallons of water each day. The SCORE work establishes a stewardship connection between the community and the oyster resource, and allows for volunteers to enhance their knowledge base of the importance of oyster restoration.

Recent groups from Winthrop University, Illinois State University and James Island Charter High School worked to assemble over 400 bags of recycled shells, which will be used to plant and fortify reef sites this summer. Each bag contains 3/4 bushel of shell and weighs 30-40 pounds.  The collective bagging efforts from all volunteers this year has resulted in over 3500 bags that are ready for planting.
The community-oriented nature of the SCORE program also depends on the public’s involvement to recycle their oyster shells. Volunteers use the oyster shells that have been previously dropped off at shell recycling locations to bag and plant shells on reef sites along intertidal coastal areas. The shells that are recycled are placed back into the estuarine environment, and greater awareness of the need to recycle shells cannot be overstated. Recycling drop-off locations>>>

According to Hadley, “The volunteers are the heart of our program and without them we would not be able to accomplish the work to construct and monitor oyster reefs in coastal communities.”  The shell bagging work of volunteers will be used for reef building this summer at coastal sites including Cape Romain, Mount Pleasant, James Island, the ACE Basin, Hunting Island, and Bluffton.  The first reef construction project will occur April 13 at Riverland Terrace and work in the ACE Basin is scheduled for the first week of May.
More News