Monthly Archives: September 2016

Living shoreline solutions around the world using a complex AR module.

Contact us in your planning stages as we are happy to share research and information as you look for a solutions to your living shoreline issues.

It could be the question of avoiding erosion by providing wave attenuation with a product that has proven success over the past 23 years.  Starting with research sponsored by the US Army Corp of engineers in the 1990.   Or it could be similar to this project designed to protect an Audubon Bird Sanctuary in Tampa Bay.Eagle on Alafia River banks

Aesthetics was an important factor in the design of Reef Balls.  From the water it’s not a sore thumb against the shoreline. The above photo was taken 2 years into the project.  Now phase two is underway with more Reef Balls.

Sometimes the living shoreline solution may be a scattering of Reef Balls.  This technique is proving EFH as well as the required relief for re-establishing oysters.  Reef Balls are the most effective living shoreline solution because of the complexity of the artificial reef modules design.  Various shapes and sizes  of holes, the concave and convex shape of the holes, the hollow center, all the surfaces are curved, adding a benefit in wave attenuation as well as providing the eddie currents for filter feeders.    Complex artificial reef modules such as the Reef Ball have proven to provide a better habitat for crustaceans. Other studies have shown that complex AR modules can match the area’s existing habitat in biomass.oyster dome reefNotice the opening around the base of the Reef Balls,  when on field survey be sure to look inside, the diversity of fish and crustaceans will amaze you. The waverly base of the Reef Balls is often the location of stone crabs.

Sooner or later a storm will cross your living shoreline.   Research has shown that living shorelines add resilience.  One of the key species that stabilize the shoreline are marsh grasses with roots that anchor to depths of 10ft. The catch is many shorelines have lost marsh grasses due to wave action from boat traffic.   The marshes are typically not high energy coast,  but to re-establish the marsh grasses  wave attenuation is needed.  Reef Balls provide that wave attenuation, the design of any breakwater system requires some in depth studies of wind direction, historic wave characteristics,  currents and many other factors.   Regardless, a productive living shoreline needs a flow of water.   Reef Balls, allow that water flow and they have a track record of staying in place in large storms.

SAG (submerged aquatic vegetation)  is important to re-establish,  however wave action also has an impact on these grasses.   Existing seawalls cause a reflective wave adding turbulence on the seafloor.  As the waves reflect from the seawall, they meet the next incoming wave and the resulting action is a doubling of the wave height,  that also affects the bottom so stopping that reflecting wave is of high importance.   A living shoreline solution for areas of seawall that you cannot move offshore to install the breakwater is Eco-Rap.   First developed in 2015 these modules can be placed along an existing seawall  providing wave attenuation, resilience and as a bonus you get IFH as well as crustaceans. The Eco-Rap in Palmetto, Florida helped in the restoration of sea grass beds close to the

Additional research in seagrass beds has shown an importance of a rock outcropping for the juvenile stone crab to settle, in Florida placing a Reef Ball in a seagrass bed, is not readily accepted,  but that is another things to think of as you working on the extended shoreline.  The small microhabitats are proven to be a great form of restoration.

More information on best practices using Reef Balls will an oral presentation at Restore America’s Estuaries Conference Dec. 2016.    Specific information on using Reef Balls for Shellfish Restoration will be an oral presentation at the International Conference on Shellfish Restoration in November. 

Prefered method of using recycled shell for restoration projects

CBF - distributing recycled oyster shell
CBF – distributing recycled oyster shell Hampton River VA  2016

Reusable bins of shell carried out  for use on the Hampton River in Virginia.   This is a much better use of plastic than filling the river with plastic mesh bags stuffed with oysters.

Actually, from my observations, at several sites, oyster bags they tend to break over time.  Rebar and other ways have been used to strap them down.   But one of the most important points to note is that as an oyster gets larger its sharp edges end up cutting the mesh bag and the shell is then loose.   We should be keeping plastics out of the water, and marsh.

So,  why not start with loose shell?

Don’t forget you may need some relief to get your oysters started, or at least an area with less silty water allowing a surface for spat to settle.   Reef Balls have been proven very effective at accomplishing what you need for shellfish restoration,  not just oysters but EFH and breakwaters.


Oyster Bags at Morris Landing NC 2016

Shellfish Study

Studying oyster growth on a Reef Ball CBF photo
Studying oyster growth on a Reef Ball CBF photo

This  Oyster sive Reef Ball was pulled up so scientists could survey the growth.  The Reef Ball was placed on the Lafayette-River in Virginia.  Photo – September 8, 2016

Oyster Ball

Mangrove and oyster restoration in Volusia County using Reef Balls

This technique uses pre-cast substrate to provide the oyster larva with a firm base to adhere and propagate. This type of restoration technique provides a stable substrate for oyster larva settlement and the potential to perform as an effective wave energy dissipater and erosion control device. We then planted a red mangrove encased in a tightly woven mesh bag into each reef ball.


A nursery of red mangroves                         A newly planted mangrove

Retrieved from Volusia County Government site,

Olympia Oyster Restoration – article 2015

Native Oyster Reef Monitoring at Point Pinole

The Watershed Project is an NGO based in Richmond, CA that inspires Bay Area communities to understand, appreciate and protect our local watersheds.

My first engagement with the organization was at Bubbles and Bivalves, their annual fundraiser at the Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 in San Francisco. Much of their programming and activities align with what Hustleshuck is trying to do as far as using oysters to get people more connected to (improving) the marine environment. Their flagship project is a set of artificial oyster reefs located on the tide flats at Point Pinole on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay.

Several times a year a group of volunteers go out to monitor the reef in order to get a sense of the state of the native oyster population. Olympia oysters are the only species of oyster native to the West coast. There wasn’t much of a commercial industry for them in the San Francisco Bay as there was further north in Oregon or Washington, however they still played a crucial role in the estuarine ecosystem. Across the globe, oysters are recognized as a keystone species in coastal environments thanks to their habitat forming and water filtering capacities.

These ecosystem services were lost when sedimentation and declining water quality created an inhabitable environment for oysters in the San Francisco Bay. Like similar projects in New York Harbor and Chesapeake Bay, The Watershed Project is trying to reestablish native oysters in San Francisco Bay in the hopes of improving the health of the environment, regaining some of the biodiversity that was lost, and connecting local inhabitants to the history and promise of the Bay as a natural and cultural resource.

It was an early to start to get over to Point Pinole by 7am. We had to take advantage of the low morning tide in order to have enough time to collect our data before the reefs once again became submerged in bay water. We paired up in teams of two and set about analyzing the number and size of oysters on the reef balls as well as determining what else was growing on them and in the area.

Our surveying method consisted of randomly selecting a 6”x6” area on the north side of randomly selected reef balls. With about 30 individual areas observed we could get a good overall sense of the health of population at this site. I was blown away by the number of oysters we found, as well as the amount of algae and other invertebrates living on and around the reef balls. It definitely seemed to be a high energy environment, remarkably similar to oyster farming sites in the concentration and diversity of organisms.

All-in-all it was a successful outing. I’d never seen so many Olys (as Olypmia oysters are commonly known) in the wild. The reefs were also clearly creating habitat for other animals like grass shrimp, which are a key prey species for striped bass, shad, and other fish.

I’ll be curious to see how things will have changed on the next outing later in Fall.  Stay tuned!

Norfolk’s Lafayette River Oyster Restoration Article from 2010

Retreived from Bay Daily

Image result for shellfish restoration using reef balls

Exciting News from a Troubled River

Great news to report about oysters in, of all places, one of the most stressed river systems in the entire Chesapeake Bay.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) scientists are finding lots of healthy, fast-growing oysters in Norfolk’s Lafayette River, a tributary of the Elizabeth River. The discovery bodes well for improving water quality – and restoring a thriving oyster population – in this historic river.

First, a little background: the Lafayette is the northern-most tributary of the Elizabeth River, a historic
but troubled waterway whose four branches (Western Branch, Eastern Branch, Southern Branch Lrand Lafayette) drain four cities and some of South Hampton Roads’ most industrialized areas. As a result, the Elizabeth system is among the Bay’s worst pollution “hot spots,” with some areas containing bottom sediments laden with toxic chemicals from decades-old pollution.The Lafayette River, bordered largely by homes, museums, marinas, and marshes, is less severely polluted but remains among the most urbanized rivers in the Bay watershed. It suffers from many of the Bay’s classic problems: too much runoff, too many algal blooms, too much bacteria, and too little oxygen.

CBF, the Elizabeth River Project, the City of Norfolk, and other partners are working with theVirginia Institute of Marine Science to restore water quality in the river. All believe that oyster restoration will be integral to success.

DSC_0160To that end, CBF is expanding the number of volunteer citizen oyster gardeners in the Lafayette. Additionally, last summer we placed 50 concrete reef balls, many of them coated with a skin of living baby oysters, or spat, in the river to create a manmade reef. We hoped the reef balls would prove suitable homes for the baby oysters as well as attract and grow more wild oysters.

CBF scientists also began a comprehensive survey of the oyster population in the Lafayette, examining 22 miles of shoreline to look for oysters. We also recruited scores of waterfront residents to participate in a “spat catcher” program.

Spat catchers — small cages containing 50 recycled oyster shells – were suspended from more than 80 SpatCatcherRoundup 040residents’ backyard piers and docks. We wanted to see how many free-floating baby oysters in the river would attach to the shells. By later comparing the numbers of spat in the various shell cages, CBF oyster scientists hoped to determine which parts of the Lafayette may hold the greatest potential for future oyster restoration efforts.

Last weekend, a CBF team of scientists, interns, and volunteers pulled up the spat catchers and tallied the results. Here is how CBF Oyster Restoration and Fisheries Scientist Tommy Leggett described it:

Lafayette.spat“This is one of the most exciting things I think we’ve ever done…We had some of the most remarkable spat sets on the shells that I’ve ever seen in the wild, and especially for the Elizabeth River system. Some shells had spat numbers that rivaled what we produce in our spat-on-shell tanks (at CBF’s oyster farm). “  For example, the shell in the photo at left had a remarkable 28 spat attached (photo by Chip Finch).

A few days later, Leggett, CBF Oyster Restoration Specialist Jackie Shannon, and CBF Reef Ball Technician Laura Engelund inspected the concrete reef balls CBF placed in the Lafayette last June.

“We’ve been anxiously wondering how the oyster spat on the reef balls fared over the summer and didn’t quite know what to expect once we got back this week,” Engelund said. “We were amazed at the size of the oysters! In four months they have grown from baby spat to near market IMG_6484  size. They are significantly larger than we anticipated and cover the reef balls nearly 100 percent. We put in a couple of reef balls without spat and were pleased to find a natural set growing quite nicely on those as well. The reef balls we planted without spat are easy to recognize in the photographs: smaller oysters and fewer in number. But they all got there by themselves!”

Pictures are worth a thousand blogging words, so take a look at what’s happening in the Lafayette.

What does it all mean for the river’s future? The preliminary data suggest there’s a healthy oyster population in the Lafayette River, says Leggett (below, center, with Jackie Shannon, left, and Laura Engelund, right, and one of the Lafayette reef balls).

IMG_6490“But the river has limited habitat for baby oysters to settle upon. Most of the natural oyster bars/rocks are gone, silted over, or have sunk beneath the river bottom. What the river needs now is more oyster shell or hard substrate like reef balls for oysters to attach to.”

And Leggett added, “Efforts to improve water quality by reducing nitrogen from sewage treatment plants and runoff from lawns and storm drains will provide better conditions for a recovering oyster population.”

CBF and its Lafayette River partners will be working to address these issues in the months and years to come. Stay tuned for more good news!

By Chuck Epes

Chesapeake Bay Foundation


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I read your post. I am a driller but I drill for environmental testing. I like to keep informed so thanks and keep on posting. It was really interesting because I live in Virginia and my Mom lived on the River you are speaking of in this post. I am pleased to here that progress is being made. Thanks again. I really enjoyed it.

2013 article Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration.

Saving the Chesapeake Bay, One Oyster at a Time

Written by: Laura Wood

Recent low lunar tides along the Lafayette River offered an excellent opportunity to see the fruits of our oyster restoration work. Above, reef balls planted two years ago are now completely covered in oysters.
Photo by CBF Staff

Once so chock-full that Native Americans called it “great shellfish bay,” the Chesapeake has long since seen its oyster population decimated by overharvesting, pollution, and disease.

This is bad news for the Bay, and its rivers and streams. CBF’s Oyster Restoration and Fisheries Scientist Tommy Leggett explains, “Oysters are important to cleaning up the Bay. They filter huge amounts of water; nearly 50 gallons a day during the warmer months, and they grow in reefs that are home to many other Bay critters”—including blue crabs, striped bass, redfish, black drum, bluefish, white perch, speckled trout, and spot.

But, with support from friends like The Orvis Company, CBF is working to bring this vital species back from the brink.

Every year, with the help of thousands of volunteers, CBF plants tens of millions of baby oysters, builds and submerges hundreds of oyster reef balls onto protected sanctuary reefs in the waters of both Maryland and Virginia, collects oyster shells that are recycled into oyster reefs, works with local watermen on oyster aquaculture, and, runs a successful oyster gardener program.

Since 1998, CBF has planted more than 130 million oysters on 150 sanctuary reefs throughout the Bay. In what the Washington Post called a “modern day Lazarus story”, CBF’s work has helped reverse the oysters decline. In 2011, Virginia harvested the most oysters since 1989—roughly 236,000 bushels (up from 79,600 in 2005), and Maryland hauled in 121,000 (more than quadrupling its harvest from 2005 of 26,000).  Not only that, but in Maryland, their 2011 oyster survey showed the highest survival rate since 1985—92 percent—a sign that our continued efforts are paying off.

Working with partners like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CBF is focusing its oyster restoration efforts on specific tributaries—Harris Creek, Severn River, and the Choptank and Little Choptank Rivers in Maryland, and the Lafayette, Elizabeth, and Piankatank Rivers in Virginia.

CBF knows we’re not going to save the Bay without oysters. With the help of partners like The Orvis Company, we’re restoring hope, not just for the Bay’s native oyster population, but for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.