Rebuilding the Oyster Reefs

Oyster ReefsValuable Marine Habitat

Oyster reefs are a valuable marine habitat. Oysters filter and clean the water as they feed, removing suspended sediment as well as contaminants and pesticides. They serve to keep water clear, and provide important habitat for many marine species. Common oysters, a species of marine mollusk known to scientists as Crassostrea virginica, are free-floating in their larval stage, but once they attach to a bottom they develop into small oysters called spat and stay put. They often attach to one another and form huge congregates known as oyster reefs.

Getting oyster bags to the waterOyster reefs also provide some erosion control. Instead of using a bulkhead, the volunteers are building a living shoreline, made up of oyster bags, laying them down in a pattern making a reef along the shoreline which will provide the habitat on the bags of oyster shells as well as reduce the erosion along the shoreline.

Volunteer Work

In association with other volunteer groups, Friends of Hunting Island volunteers have been building oyster habitats on Hunting Island since the early 2000s. Building oyster reefs is a labor-intensive job, requiring many volunteers and coordination with the staff of Hunting Island State Park and the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement program (SCORE).

In 2012, using 530 20-lb mesh bags of oyster shells, volunteers built the 763-square foot reef next to the previous year’s build, which was showing a substantial amount of recruitment at that time. In June 2014, volunteers built another reef at Russ Point Landing. These reefs constitute a pretty impressive oyster habitat. They quickly begin to filter water, create habitat, and supply food for a variety of marine life, while helping to stabilize sections of the Lowcountry marsh.

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We need only two things to provide the services and projects you see described on this website: your participation and your tax-deductible membership fees. For one $40 membership contribution, you and your family can join Friends of Hunting Island and have unlimited access to the park for one year. All members are encouraged to participate in any of our on-going projects. If you do not wish to join, but want to donate to our efforts, click here to make a tax-deductible donation to the Friends of Hunting Island.