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clock Oct 20, 2006 1:14 pm US/Eastern

'Reef Balls' Helping Restore Native Bay Oyster

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Alex DeMetrick
Reporting

(WJZ) Officials from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) say they have seen a significant success in Eastern Bay, near Kent Island, that shows using "reef balls" can be a successful approach to restoring the native Bay oyster.

CBF and project partners Maryland Environmental Service (MES) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will host boat trips to the reef ball site, and will lift several out of the water to highlight the project's accomplishments. Reef balls without oysters will be available on the boat for visual comparisons.

CBF, MES and NOAA, with funding from the Fish America Foundation, planted 69 reef balls on the site in 2005. Twenty-seven of those were "set," meaning tiny oysters had attached to the reef balls at CBF's Oyster Restoration Center. Less than one year after they were placed on the Eastern Bay reef, these oysters have grown over two inches in length, and have an excellent survival rate.

Reef balls - large, igloo-like concrete structures - are still a relatively new approach to restoring oysters to the Chesapeake. Reef balls are planted in the Bay, and oysters can attach themselves to the concrete "reefs." There, the oysters can grow into adults, filtering harmful pollutants from the water and creating a rich habitat for fish and other creatures. Project partners also include CBF and South River Federation volunteers, who helped create the reef balls.

WJZ'S Alex DeMetrick spoke to a member of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "We also have to provide some sort of substance for these oysters to sit on, so that they're up off the bottom, out of the mud, where they get a good supply of food and oxygen and water flow. That's how they thrive." said Stephanie Reynolds.

From spraying massive shell deposits into the Choptank River to create oyster bars, to oyster nurseries in Virginia, bringing native stocks back could help clean bay waters. Because oysters feed on nutrients that block sunlight, crucial to underwater life, the trick is finding a way to bring enough oysters back.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is part of the oyster recovery partnership, which includes state and federal agencies. The partnership plants up to eight million oysters into the bay each year.

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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