OYSTER -- A team of 16 workers on Wednesday deployed 200 concrete
oyster reef balls into waters off the Eastern Shore's southern
seaside areas in an effort to help restore Virginia's native oyster
Jake Perkinson, a 2007 graduate of Tandem Friends School in
Charlottesville, with the help of Gus Lorber, president of Allied
Concrete in Charlottesville, decided to build concrete reef balls
for a senior project.
"This project started when
Gus called me about a year or so ago about getting involved in
oyster restoration. He recruited Jake and got him working through
the school," said Barry Truitt, the chief conservation scientist of
The Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve.
With the assistance of Todd Barber, founder and chairman of The
Reef Ball Foundation, Perkinson spent months molding and building
the reef balls in time for summer deployment.
Truitt led the deployment team to two sites, one in Magotha Bay
and one off the coast of Smith Island.
In all, 109 reef balls were deployed in Magotha Bay and around 91
off the coast of Smith Island.
An additional 90 reef balls will be deployed at another site near
Smith Island next month.
The concrete is environmentally friendly and mocks an oyster
habitat. Oyster shells were scattered along with the reef balls at
the Smith Island site. This allows oysters to achieve vertical
relief, where the oysters grow on top of one another.
The initial goal is to restore functional oyster reefs in the
coastal bays. A functional oyster reef occurs when the inter-tidal
reefs show vertical relief of a variety of oysters in size and age
that will filter and improve water quality, provide habitat for
other species and assist in the overall food chain in the coastal
bays, said Truitt.
The Nature Conservancy maintains about 32 acres of existing and
restored reefs. Several members on the deployment team mentioned how
it feels good knowing they are giving something back to nature
through this project.
"I thought everything went great," Truitt said, calling it an
"enthusiastic bunch of kids. All around it was a good experience for
them and a benefit to the environment."
The team consisted of Perkinson along with high school friends
Carter Hanson, Martin Palmer, brother Gabe Perkinson, father Paul
Perkinson, Allied Concrete president Gus Lorber, Michael Wertheim
and John Davis.
Additionally, volunteers Bob Jones and Ken Waltman assisted in
the deployment of the reef balls. On the barge carrying the oyster
reef balls were team members Marcus Killmon from the conservancy,
Patrick Conroy, Josh Richards and Rachael Baker from the Long Term
Ecological Research Lab located at the Anheuser-Busch Coastal
Research Center in Oyster and Conservancy Oyster Restoration
Technician Adam DiNuovo.
Virginia's Eastern Shore oyster population has become very
troubled over the years. From the 1930's through the 1950's the
annual oyster harvest on the seaside totaled half a million bushels.
From the 1950's until today, disease outbreaks and continual
overharvesting have had detrimental effects on the oyster
population. In the 1993-1994 harvest season, the seaside Eastern
Shore public oyster harvest totaled about 1,500 bushels and the
private oyster harvest over 4,500 bushels.
In the 2004-2005 season, public harvest was less then 500 bushels
and private harvest was about 600 to 700 bushels.
This restoration effort was part of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration -- The Nature Conservancy Community
The object of the program is to get local community members and
industries to support restoration projects. Allied Concrete served
as an industry partner while Tandem Friends School and local
volunteers served as community partners for this particular project.
This project was funded by NOAA, the Nature Conservancy's Global
Marine Initiative and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.