St. Petersburg, FL - Tampa Bay Watch, in partnership with Restore America’s Estuaries, NOAA Restoration Center and the Pinellas County Department of Environmental Management will create new oyster shell reef habitat along the shoreline of Weedon Island on the morning of Friday, November 18. A group of forty team members from the Tampa Bay Rays’ Employee Community Outreach Team will assist in the project. Half of the group will begin to shovel oyster shell at 9:15am while the second group will travel by boat to assist in laying the oyster shell bar. The project will wrap up around 12:00pm.
“We’re working to build an oyster bar on the western shoreline of the mangrove shoreline. Over time the shoreline has experienced erosion due to changes in currents and sand distribution. Creation of a series of oyster bars is proposed to prevent further erosion of Weedon Island, create an oyster reef and protected shallow, calm water shoreline habitats, and improve water quality through the natural biological filtration that living oysters provide,” offered Serra Herndon, Habitat Restoration Director for Tampa Bay Watch.
This project is another step in the Rays green initiative, Teaming Up for the Environment, which was launched during the 2008 season. The sustainable business program focuses on green procurement, practices and advocacy. “Rays employees are encouraged to take paid time off contributing in their communities. Many of our staff are committed to preserving our environment and they’ve taken the lead on this project and recruited plenty of volunteers to help,” said Rays Senior Vice President of Business Operations Brian Auld.
Restored oyster bars – essentially a man-made reef of natural fossilized oyster shells – will provide a solid surface for young pioneering oysters to attach to and grow their own shells. Living oysters that settle on the fossilized shells provide multiple benefits to Tampa Bay, including cleansing up to ten gallons of water per hour by each oyster through their filter feeding, providing a valuable food source for a myriad of water life, stabilizing the bottom sediments and reducing wave energy action against the island’s shorelines.
Weedon Island Preserve, at approximately 3,700 acres, is an ecological jewel within an urban landscape on the shores of Old Tampa Bay. This coastal system, comprised of aquatic and upland ecosystems, is home to numerous species of native plants and animals, an educational facility and a rich cultural history. Weedon Island Preserve is a well-known birding and fishing site. Although shell fishing is prohibited in all of Tampa Bay for health reasons, the Preserve's fishing pier and outlying oyster bars are ideal sites for catching sea trout, snook and sheepshead.