From:                              Rob Brumbaugh []

Sent:                               Monday, October 26, 2009 10:30 AM

To:                                   Robert Brumbaugh

Subject:                          Shellfish Clamor October 2009



Shellfish Restoration Network
Native shellfish play vital ecological roles in many estuaries, but are imperiled in many estuaries by habitat loss, over fishing, and pollution. Through a Shellfish Restoration Network, The Nature Conservancy and its partners are working to improve the design and implementation of restoration projects that help to illustrate the ecosystem services that shellfish provide. Through this network, we also hope to demonstrate the elements necessary to expand restoration and conservation to ecosystem scales.

Global Marine Initiative's Vision
"The Nature Conservancy and partners working together in polar, temperate and tropical seas worldwide to conserve marine biodiversity effectively across seascapes and landscapes through transformative strategies and integrated planning and action."

To Join the Network, contact:
Rob Brumbaugh
Restoration Program Director
The Nature Conservancy, Global Marine Initiative or
305-745-8402 ext. 109

For more information about The Nature Conservancy’s
Global Marine Initiative, visit:



October 2009
Distributed by The Nature Conservancy's Global Marine Initiative

Global Shellfish Reefs at Risk Assessment published by TNC



The Nature Conservancy, working with a team of scientists from academic and research institutions from 5 continents, published the first-ever comprehensive global assessment of the condition of the world’s shellfish reefs and beds. The report focuses primarily on the distribution and condition of native oyster reefs and found that 85 percent of oyster reefs have been lost worldwide, suggesting that oyster reefs are the most severely degraded marine habitat on the planet.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented and alarming decline in the condition of oyster reefs, a critically important habitat in the world’s bays and estuaries,” said Mike Beck, senior marine scientist at The Nature Conservancy and lead author of the report. “However, realistic and cost-effective solutions within conservation and coastal restoration programs, along with policy and reef management improvements, provide hope for the survival of shellfish.”

Besides being a culinary favorite and a long-standing staple in seafood restaurants around the globe, oysters and oyster reefs provide benefits to humans in less obvious ways. For example, they act as natural water filters and improve water quality, provide food and habitat for fish, crabs and birds, and serve as natural coastal buffers that help to protect shorelines and keep coastal marshes intact, an important factor in protecting communities against storm surges and sea-level rise.

Among the findings of the report:

  • In the majority of individual bays around the world, there has been a greater than 90 percent loss of oyster reef habitat. In some areas, the loss of oyster reef habitat exceeds 99 percent -- globally, 85 percent of oyster reefs have been completely lost.
  • Reefs are functionally extinct in many bays, particularly in North America, Australia and Europe - no longer providing the full range of ecosystem services that benefit people.
  • Most of the world’s remaining wild capture of oysters comes from only five regions on the east coast of North and Central America, and in most of these regions, oyster reefs are in poor condition or worse.

The driving forces behind the decline of oyster reefs include destructive fishing practices, coastal over-development, and associated effects of upstream activities such as altered river flows, dams, poorly managed agriculture and poor water quality. Many of these threats have been around for decades and even centuries, but today there are two main issues that impede oyster recovery efforts.

According to the report, the first is a widespread lack of awareness that shellfish habitats are in trouble. In nearly all cases, shellfish are managed as fisheries, meaning they are viewed solely as a commodity but are not valued for the intrinsic role they play in keeping marine ecosystems healthy and intact. The second challenge is the common perception that as native shellfish decline in abundance, non-native shellfish can act as an ecologically suitable replacement. Unfortunately, previous introductions of non-native oysters and other shellfish into new areas have spread disease and have had other negative impacts on the surrounding environment.

The report lays out specific recommendations drawn from examples around the world, such as the need to elevate native oyster reefs as a priority for habitat management and conservation, and make better use of protected area policies for their protection.

To download a copy of the report or to read more of the recommendations outlined in the report, please visit:



Recycled shells are stored on land to help dry and clean them prior to being used for restoration projects. Chesapeake Bay Foundation volunteers help to collect the shells used for restoration projects. Photo: Chesapeake Bay Foundation










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Texas Parks and Wildlife Department launches multi-faceted restoration effort in Galveston Bay, Texas

Barge unloading River rock1.jpg

River rock and crushed concrete were used to create the foundations of restored oyster reefs in Galveston Bay.  The rock has proved quite useful for attracting settlement of new oysters. 
Photo: TPWD

In September, barges began unloading crushed concrete and river rock as oyster substrate (‘cultch’) in several parts of Galveston Bay, Texas, to help revive oyster reefs that had been damaged by Hurricanes Rita (2005) and Ike (2008). The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is spearheading a multi-faceted restoration effort that is designed to achieve two different sets of management objectives. In East Galveston Bay, where approximately 80% of reefs were destroyed by Hurricane Ike, approximately 20 acres of reef have been constructed with future harvest in mind to benefit the region’s commercial oyster industry. The restored reefs will be set aside for two years and allowed to accumulate oysters prior to being opened for harvest. Importantly, the restoration effort is accompanied by a monitoring program using side-scan sonar and a scientific echosounder to characterize the reefs themselves as well as the fish assemblage occurring over the reefs.

In another part of the bay, a project jointly funded by the TPWD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Galveston Bay Foundation is being implemented with a different management objective in mind – restoring oyster reefs to provide habitat for fish. This, in turn, is aimed at improving recreational angling opportunities along the Bay’s western shoreline. Patches of reef habitat are being restored within an area that is currently closed to commercial and recreational oyster harvesting because of water quality restrictions. Recreationally important fish species will benefit from the increase in reef habitat in this area, however, enabling managers to create new opportunities for recreational anglers to catch highly prized species such as spotted seatrout and red drum (redfish) along the western shoreline of Galveston Bay. There is direct public participation in the project as well that will both enhance the reefs and increase awareness of, and support for, active oyster reef habitat restoration. Homeowners with piers on nearby shorelines are suspending bags of shell in the bay to attract juvenile oysters (spat). The captured oysters will be transferred to the newly constructed reef to help ‘jump start’ the population and to augment the numbers of oysters that will settle naturally on the reefs.


Reefs designed to attract recreational fish were created in the western portion of Galveston Bay.  Map: TPWD 

Check out the Cool Video Clip below for more information about the project!

Contacts: Bill Rodney or Jennie Rohrer

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Oyster Restoration in Wellfleet, Massachusetts

The Nature Conservancy of Massachusetts is working with MassAudubon, the Town of Wellfleet and NOAA’s Restoration Center to revive a natural oyster reef in Wellfleet Bay, off of Lieutenant Island on MassAudubon’s Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary intertidal property. Working with a broad advisory group made up of local shellfishermen, the town shellfish constable, and Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, the project team is working to promote Eastern oyster reefs for their value as important coastal habitat, not just as a fishery commodity more famously known on restaurant menus as “Wellfleets”. Oysters appear to be limited in the bay by a lack of settlement habitat, so with guidance from the advisory group and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the project is designed to test the viability of three different oyster reef substrates: hollow cement structures called ‘oyster castles’, hollow cement ‘reef balls’ and more traditional surf clam and oyster shell cultch. The project was funded by the National Partnership between The Nature Conservancy and NOAA’s Community-based Restoration Program.

Surf clam shell was deployed as oyster settlement substrate in June 2008 to confirm the ability of the site to attract larvae, and plots containing the full array of three major substrates were established this past June. The site will be monitored for a minimum of three years and the data will help to inform recommendations for a sustainable Experimental Harvest Plan for portions of the reef site when oysters grow to legal size.

The project team also continues to work with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and other agencies on longer-term questions about sustainable harvest, appropriate restoration techniques and the development of a submerged lands leasing program to better protect shellfish restoration investments. For more information, Contact: Kate Killerlain Morrison

Wellfleet reefs_Mark_Faherty_MassAudubon.jpg

Different kinds of oyster settlement substrate, or ‘cultch’, are being tested as a material for intertidal oyster restoration in Wellfleet Bay. 
Credit: Mark Faherty, Mass Audubon.

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Looking Ahead

Aquaculture 2010: National Shellfisheries Association / Triennial Meeting
March 1-5
San Diego, California. 

Save the Date: 5th National Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Restoration
Conference theme: “Preparing for climate change: science, practice and policy”.
November 13-17, 2010
Galveston, Texas

Note:  If you would like to contribute an article or submit items for the "Looking Ahead" section, please contact Rob Brumbaugh (

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Web Resources

The Practitioner’s Guide to Shellfish Restoration: An Ecosystem Services Approach, as well as back issues of the Shellfish Restoration Clamor are available online.

Guidance on methods for monitoring oyster reef restoration projects is available at the Oyster Restoration Workgroup website.

Cool Video!
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s video describing the recent oyster reef restoration activities in Galveston Bay.

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