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Editorial: Clam Bayou inhabitants need your help

By Staff | May 11, 2011

When the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation announced last fall that it needed the assistance — to the tune of $5.3 million — of island residents, businesses and visitors in order to acquire the 28.3-acre Bailey Homestead, it seemed like a tall task.

Yet in less than the nine month deadline imposed on the proposed purchase, the generosity of islanders was confirmed when earlier this week, SCCF proclaimed that their financial goal had been met.

In this column, we urged our readers to open their hearts — and their wallets — in support of that noble cause, which will not only preserve a historic property for generations to come but help protect the island’s precious wildlife.

This week, we are again calling upon islanders to offer aide to another ongoing effort by SCCF… but this campaign won’t cost you a dime.

On Tuesday, May 17 and Tuesday, May 31, representatives from SCCF’s Marine Lab will gather in a staging area at Bowman’s Beach (adjacent to the main parking lot) to bag oyster shells from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Those bags will eventually be deployed into Clam Bayou, where critical reef habitat for several species — fish, birds, reptiles and mammals alike — have diminished over the years, hindering their health and jeopardizing their future existence in local waterways.

According to event coordinator Sabrina Lartz, oysters form living reefs that provide nursery habitat for both adult and juvenile fish, shrimp and crabs, as well as feeding sites for many larger animals. Oysters also filter significant volumes of water, improving water clarity, stabilize sediment and shorelines.

As a result of deploying bagged shells into Clam Bayou, the oyster-enhanced habitats will provide feeding areas for endangered species such as wood storks, snowy plovers, manatees and smalltooth sawfish.

Since October, more than 17,000 pounds of oyster shells have been collected by island restaurants for this effort. Now, SCCF needs a bit of help in bagging those shells.

We are requesting that the able-bodied members of our community contribute to this effort and volunteer at either clam bagging event. Or, better yet, both. Volunteers must register in advance by calling Lartz at 395-4617 or sending an e-mail to slartz@sccf.org.

Participants will also be allowed to park free of charge at Bowman’s Beach during these events, so it truly is a cost-free way to support SCCF. And offer a little bit of help to the fish, birds, reptiles and fellow mammals who inhabit Clam Bayou.

— Reporter editorial