Final shell deployment event next week at Bowman’s
For the dozens of volunteers who have taken part in the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s oyster shell bagging and deployment project since it began last year, the “finish line” is at long last coming into view,
According to Sabrina Lartz, Research Assistant at the SCCF Marine Lab and coordinator of the effort, there will be one final oyster shell deployment event this season, held on Tuesday, June 28. As has been requested in the past, volunteers should arrive at Bowman’s Beach beginning at 8:30 a.m. sharp.
“Participants don’t have to stay for the entire event,” said Lartz, “but we encourage people to do so.”
According to Lartz, restoration of oyster habitats will benefit many important fish species, including snook, gray snapper, mullet, spotted seatrout, red drum, tarpon, goliath grouper and numerous ecologically-important invertebrates that support the fishery resources. Enhanced habitats provide feeding areas for endangered species such as the smalltooth sawfish, wood storks, piping and snowy plovers, least terns and manatees.
Oysters also filter significant volumes of water, improving water clarity, stabilize sediment and shorelines. Adult oysters release millions of fertilized eggs (May to October) which then develop in our waters over 2-3 weeks. They then must attach (now called “spat”) to a hard substrate (ideally other oysters) or they die.
Since the project began in 2010, the SCCF Marine Lab and several groups of volunteers have taken part in the task of shoveling, bagging, stacking and finally deploying the bagged shells into Clam Bayou. To date, five new reefs have been added to the site, with more than 5,000 bags of shell distributed into the waterway.
“In total, more than 17,000 pounds of fresh green shell has been collected since October 2010,” Lartz stated. “We have received a tremendous amount of help from local restaurants on Sanibel and Captiva islands, who have been collecting the fresh green oyster shell to build reefs during peak visitor season.”
Registered volunteers will be given a parking pass at the Bowman’s Beach lot entrance. Place the parking pass in your front windshield so that it is visible. There will be signs which read “Shell Bagging” leading you to the staging area (near the restrooms).
Volunteers will load the shell bags onto a flatbed trailer, which will then be driven to the San-Cap culvert. Some volunteers will stay behind to continue moving shell and some will follow the truck to the culvert to unload shell. Volunteers driving to the culvert must keep their parking pass displayed in the window.
At the dock, volunteers will then load the bags of shell onto a pontoon boat. Once the pontoon is loaded, an SCCF staff member will drive the pontoon to the reef building site, while the volunteers paddle behind it in canoes and kayaks. If you can bring a boat, please do so.
Once in the water, volunteers and staff will hand bags of shell to people down the line, much like a fire brigade, who will pass bags from the pontoon to the reef-building site. Once the pontoon is emptied, it will be taken back to the culvert for more shell bags. Volunteers will paddle back to the culvert to load more shell onto the pontoon.
The event will wrap up around noon.
What to wear: Rubber boots that go up to your knees, hard sole dive booties or old tennis shoes with socks. You need to protect your feet and legs from oysters in the bayou and from branches with barnacles on them. A hat is advisable and cloth gardening gloves, if you have them, otherwise we have gloves too. Also, wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and wet!
What to bring: A water bottle to refill (we will have two coolers, one with water and one with Gatorade for you). Sunglasses (in addition to protection from the sun, they also serve as a barrier to dust and dirt coming off the bags of shell). Sunscreen and bug spray (we have some, but want to make sure there is enough to go around). Bring a lunch or snack.
Please register in advance by contacting Sabrina Lartz via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 395-4617.