Have you heard of the Oyster Gardening Program? Perhaps you have or, maybe you have seen your neighbors caring for gardens of oysters through the summer. Volunteers from around Mobile Bay have been doing just that for a number of years now. They have been, and continue to participate in the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program which focuses on the ecological and economical contributions of oysters to our Bay.
How does it work? This program, though managed by the AU Marine Extension Research Center and the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, is dependent on gardeners who receive juvenile oysters (‘Spat’) set on whole shell from AUSL. These oyster spat are placed in gardens at the beginning of the summer and are hung from volunteer’s piers in the middle of the water column. They are held this way to provide them ample water flow through the garden so the little oysters get the food they need, while being protected from predators such as blue crabs and oyster drills. Volunteers care for these oysters by hosing them off and removing any predators from the gardens each week.
Periodically, personnel from MBNEP and AUMERC come around to check in on the oysters, and they are always a phone call or an e mail away if volunteers have questions. At the end of the summer, the oysters have grown considerably, and it is time for them to be relocated to various restoration reefs within Mobile Bay. At this point, MBNEP/ AUMERC personnel come back to the gardening sites and collect the oysters to take them to these reefs. The idea being now that they are larger, they will have a better chance of survival in the wild where they will continue to filter food and play their important role in our ecosystem.
Sound like something you want to be involved with? There are a few conditions that need to be met to be a Gardener including access to water (a pier) and a location that is considered “open” to shellfish harvesting. There are workshops for citizens interested in becoming involved with the program planned for Saturday, April 30th in Orange Beach and Saturday, May 21st on Dauphin Island at 10:00 AM.
Presentations on the Oyster Gardening Program will be made, and any questions you may have will be answered. For more information, or to register for one of the workshops, contact me (251.438.5690). I look forward to seeing you there.
For additional questions or information, contact P.J. Waters, Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center, 251-438-5690.