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oyster reef ballS IN TAMPA BAY
Built Onsite, Delivered to the Bay
Oyster reef balls (formerly called oyster domes) help replace oyster populations in struggling habitat areas. Originally designed to rebuild coral reefs all over the world, oyster reef balls have been an integral part of Tampa Bay Watch's restoration programs for years and have been previously installed along Bayshore Blvd., MacDill Air Force Base, and the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg. These urbanized, densely populated areas are lacking in natural buffers that help reduce pollutants from flowing off our streets and into Tampa Bay. But with the help of Tampa Bay Watch, the natural habitat is getting a boost—through oyster reef balls!
Tampa Bay Watch builds approximately 1,000 oyster reef balls each year in at least two large-scale projects. Reef balls can vary in size, but most for our projects are 24” in diameter and 18” tall, and weigh approximately 200 lbs. They are installed along seawalls and shorelines to provide habitat.
Oysters need to attach to a hard structure to grow into adults, and the rough texture of the reef balls makes it easier for oysters to grow.
Oyster communities help stabilize shorelines, provide hard bottom habitats for fish and wildlife resources, and promote water quality improvements in the Tampa Bay ecosystem.
How Do Oysters Help?
IMPROVED WATER FILTRATION. Urban runoff can add high amounts of nutrients into the bay. Oysters—biological filters that can clean up to ten gallons of water per hour—will filter this runoff to help keep the bay healthy.
LESS EROSION. reef balls weaken the strong waves that cause erosion, reducing the wave energy that reaches the shoreline.
NEW HABITAT. The holes in the oyster reef balls provide hiding places for fish and crabs. In fact, they help make it possible for small fish to hide long enough to become the big fish we like to catch!
FOOD SOURCE FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE. The rough, hard texture of the reef balls makes it easier for oysters to grow. Oysters not only help cleanse the water, but are used by other species for food. The oyster reef balls also provide a home for shrimp, crabs, and small fish that are eaten by larger fish and wildlife.
Ready to Lend a Hand?
Tampa Bay Watch builds oyster reef balls onsite at the Marine Center in Tierra Verde from September through April. 10 to 20 volunteers are recruited on weekday mornings to build reef balls.
The project involves pouring marine-friendly concrete into a fiberglass mold containing a large round buoy surrounded by smaller rubber balls, creating the holes in the oyster reef balls. Microsilica is mixed with the concrete to balance the pH so oysters are attracted to the reef balls.
It’s a dirty job, but it’ll make a difference for Tampa Bay!
Check out this video which demonstrates our oyster reef ball construction project.
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3000 Pinellas Bayway South, Tierra Verde, FL 33715
Tel: 727-867-8166 | Fax: 727-867-8188
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