The Islander, Manatee County

Page 24

Oyster Bars Coming to a Seawall Near You

April, 24 2002

Sandscript by Paul Roca

Here's a quick and easy way for waterfront homeowners to improve the quality of bay waters.

Plant some reef balls off your seawall and grow an oyster bed.

Manatee County and Tampa Baywatch are offering reef balls to waterfront homeowners.  Within months, you should have some thriving oysters growing right beside your house.

So what? you ask.

Oysters are filter feeders.  They strain the goop out of the bay and clean the water.  Cleaner water means more light can penetrate to greater depths, meaning more seagrasses can grow.  More seagreasses mean more places for little critters to live and feed.  More little critters mean more big critters.   And big critters mean big snook, trout, codfish and all those other wonderful fish we love to catch.

  The Reef Balls have been used for years to create artificial reefs in the bays and Gulf, they work just as well in seawall communities.

The balls used most often under docks are about the size of a 50-gallon drum but come in 9 different sizes.  They're bade of a special pH-neutralized concrete that is eco-friendly to fish and oysters.  They've got big holes so little critters can crawl or move or swim into for protection, and they've got all kinds of nice rough spots upon which stuff can grow.

An added benefit of the balls is that they tend to protect the seawall from wave action.

Back in the dawn of time when the water was clear and I was a little boy playing in the bays, oysters were thick on the seawalls all over the Island.  We're talking oysters that stack a foot or so from the seawall.  Now, this oyster abundance is less, and the waters not as clear.  Reef Balls seem to be a pretty easy way to turn back time.

Call Reef Ball Development Group, Ltd 941-752-0169 for more information and call me if you get some.  I'd be interested in the before and after story.

Reef Balls were loaded on a barge last year for placement at artificial reefs sites in the area.  Now they are being "deployed" adjacent to seawalls to attract fish and improve habitat