Restoring Reefs in the Bayou

Oyster reefs enjoy a multi-tasked existence. Not only do they provide habitat for future oyster populations, the reefs also facilitate a cleaner aquatic environment. Once the reef is inhabited, the oysters will act as a filter—one oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water in a day.

“They filter the water because that’s how they feed,” explained Amy Baldwin, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Baldwin stood near Bayou Texar’s waterline at Bayview Park Jan. 14 and watched as a bucket-brigade of volunteers ferried sacks of oyster shell toward a series of nearshore oyster reefs.

“It’s kind of a if-you-build-it-they’ll-come,” Baldwin said.

The DEP is working in conjunction with Clean & Green, the city of Pensacola, Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Together the groups aspire to restore 22 oyster reefs in Bayou Texar.

Since 2005, the state has deployed more than 334 tons of recycled oyster shells into northwest Florida estuaries. Oyster shells needed for the Bayou Texar projects are supplied by two local restaurants: Peg Leg Pete’s and The Marina Oyster Barn.

“We pick it up in 25-gallon trash cans,” explained Jill Cleaver, with Clean & Green.

This past Saturday was another in a series of volunteer work days at Bayview.

“We’re restoring the habitat itself,” said Cleaver, looking out over the reefs.

It’ll take a while before oysters congregate on the restored reefs—spawning will occur in the spring. But the volunteers did get to meet an early reef resident when they wrapped up their prior work day.

“It was so cool,” Cleaver said. “He went up there and perched, like, two minutes after we finished—the sun broke after we finished and then this pelican showed up.”

Anyone interested in more information about the Bayou Texar oyster reef projects may contact the OYSTER Project team at 438-1178.