From:                              The Nature Conservancy []

Sent:                               Wednesday, September 28, 2011 1:07 PM

To:                                   Robert Brumbaugh

Subject:                          Shellfish Clamor - September 2011




Restoring the Clamor

ISSC preparing Best Management Practices for shellfish restoration projects

Global Perspectives on Shellfish Conservation and Restoration

Synthesis study underway design of large-scale oyster reef restoration projects

Upcoming Events

Oyster Restoration Resources and Publications

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.


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


 September 2011
 Distributed by The Nature Conservancy's Global Marine Initiative

Restoring the Clamor

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Credit: Lisa Drake

After a two year break in our publication schedule, I’m excited to send another issue of the Shellfish Restoration Clamor newsletter to your IN box. I hope you will find this issue and the ones that follow (more or less quarterly) to be of value in your work. Some readers may be receiving this newsletter for the first time. If you are interested in back issues, you can find them posted on ConserveOnline. As always, feel free to forward this on to others. If you would like to contribute articles, photos or other information to future issues of the Clamor, please feel free to contact me directly. In the meantime, enjoy this issue and be on the lookout for another issue in December.

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ISSC preparing Best Management Practices for shellfish restoration projects

A global study estimated that some 85% of oyster reef habitat has been lost globally (Beck et al., 2011).  In the U.S., where oyster reefs are in poor condition or even functionally extinct in many bays, restoration of bivalve populations and their associated structured habitat has risen as a priority for many local, state and federal agencies in recent years, as well as the conservation community in general.  Indeed, oyster reefs are one of five priority habitats for NOAA’s Restoration Center, and a National Shellfish Initiative is currently being launched that will bring public and private resources to bear on research that will help to improve the health of the Nation’s shellfish resources as well as technical support for an expanding shellfish aquaculture industry.  Not only is the pace of restoration increasing in the U.S., but the scale of restoration efforts has increased as well through funding initiatives like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“Recovery Act”).  In 2009, NOAA provided Recovery Act funding to support five large oyster reef habitat restoration projects in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana. 
For conservation organizations, the impetus for restoring bivalves and their associated habitat is the suite ecological services that bivalve reefs and beds provide.  Many projects are initiated to address the loss of structured reef habitat in estuaries, since field studies have demonstrated that restored oyster reef habitat can enhance local populations of commercially and recreationally important species of fish and crabs (Peterson et al. 2003; Grabowski and Peterson 2007).  Other projects involving oysters, as well as infaunal bivalves like hard clams, are intended to increase the filtration capacity in estuaries and to increase grazing pressure on excess phytoplankton or harmful algae (Cerrato et al. 2004).  Recent field studies have shown that oyster reefs also provide a significant denitrification service, just as other kinds of coastal wetlands do, and can export nitrogen from estuaries (Piehler and Smyth 2011).  Lastly, restoration projects are being implemented as a bio-engineering approach to protecting shorelines and obtaining additional services such as fish production that traditional engineering solutions cannot provide (Scyphers et al. 2011).
One of the important considerations when designing a restoration project involving bivalves is the intersection between public and environmental health.  This is particularly important when proposing projects that occur in waters where shellfish harvesting is not permitted, either because the waters are contaminated or because they are ‘uncertified’ (i.e., not necessarily polluted, but have not been monitored sufficiently well to assign a condition or ‘classification’ for shellfish harvest purposes). Some areas around the U.S. that fall into this category are not particularly conducive to restoration (i.e., the ecological conditions do not support shellfish or the populations are not in need of restoration). Other such areas, however, are both ecologically conducive and there is strong public interest in regaining lost ecosystem services through restoration.  In these areas, there is a clear need to ensure that restoration projects are designed to both achieve their ecological goals, as well as to ensure that the potential for human health impacts are minimized.
Conservation groups and industry representatives alike seem to be in agreement that restoration of bivalves and reef habitat is an important endeavor.  A survey of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association revealed, for example, that 86% believe that leaving shellfish in the water (e.g., within sanctuaries) promotes natural selection and helps to increase disease resistance in local bivalve populations.  Eighty percent of growers would like to be directly involved in shellfish restoration projects and, particularly noteworthy, 67% support restoration projects in closed waters (ECSGA 2011).  Dr. Bob Rheault, Executive Director of the Association, puts these results in context, “While many of our members are wary of potential illnesses associated with shellfish restoration in closed waters, a clear majority (67%) still support these projects. Over the past year, the ECSGA board of directors has developed a formal restoration policy that reflects this concern while emphasizing the benefits that these projects bring.  The Association supports these projects under the condition that strong education and enforcement programs are in place to engender stewardship in the public and minimize the risk of illegal harvest.”
For their part, public management agencies are, of course, obligated to ensure that both public health and the nation’s waters and ecosystems are protected and in doing so, they protect the shellfish industry as well.  A project that illustrates how this can work in practice was highlighted in a previous issue of the Clamor (October 2009).  Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is using reef restoration specifically to enhance habitat for redfish and sea trout in the southern portion of Galveston Bay.  The project was implemented in waters that were closed to harvest and was designed to complement other restoration efforts elsewhere in the Bay that are designed to enhance the oyster fishery.  Property owners adjacent to the project site suspended bags of shell from their piers to catch spat for eventual transplanting to the nearby reefs, which served to increase awareness about the purpose of the reefs and create a sense of local stewardship.
To help with designing restoration projects that account for both environmental and public health considerations, the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Commission (ISSC) is developing a set of Best Management Practices (BMPs).  Dr. Boze Hancock, Coordinator of TNC’s National Partnership with NOAA’s Community-based Restoration Program, notes “These BMPs are the result of extensive research and dialog over the past year involving agency representatives, industry members and conservation practitioners alike.  Once approved, the BMPs should help to increase the communication among all stakeholders and ensure that projects have well designed implementation plans that include not only include biological considerations, but social aspects as well.”  The ISSC will be reviewing the BMPs Report in their October 2011 meeting in Seattle, Washington. 
Beck, M.W., R.D. Brumbaugh, L. Airoldi, A. Carranza, L.D. Coen, C. Crawford, O. Defeo, G. Edgar, B. Hancock, M. Kay, H. Lenihan, M. Luckenbach, C. Toropova, G. Zhang and X Guo.2011. Oyster reefs at risk and recommendations for ecosystem revitalization.  Bioscience 61: 107-116.
Cerrato, R.M., D.A. Caron, D.J. Lonsdale, J.M. Rose and R.A. Schaffner. 2004. Effect of the northern quahog Mercenaria mercenaria on the development of blooms of the brown tide alga Aureococcus anophagefferens. Mar. Ecol Prog. Ser. 281: 93-108.
Grabowski, J.H. and C.H. Peterson. 2007. Restoring oyster reefs to recover ecosystem services. In: Cuddington K., Byers JE, Wilson WG, Hastings A (eds). Ecosystem engineers: concepts, theory and applications. Elsevier-Academic Press, Amsterdam, P. 281-298.
Peterson, C.H., J.H. Grabowski, and S. P. Powers. 2003.  Estimated enhancement of fish production resulting from restoring oyster reef habitat: quantitative valuation. Marine Ecology Progress Series 264:251-256.
Piehler, M.F. and A.R. Smyth. 2011. Habitat specific distinctions in estuarine denitrification affect both ecosystem function and services. Ecosphere 2: 1-16.
Scyphers, S.B., S.P. Powers, K.L. Heck Jr. and D. Byron. 2011. Oyster reefs as natural breakwaters  mitigate shoreline loss and facilitate fisheries. PLoSOne 6: 1-12.

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Global Perspectives on Shellfish Conservation and Restoration


Session participants (left to right) included Omar Defeo, Mike Beck, Tom Ysebaert, Rob Brumbaugh, Cesar Lodeiros and Boze Hancock. 
Amanda Wrona, TNC.

An international panel of experts presented a global perspective on shellfish conservation and restoration at the World Conference on Ecosystem Restoration, in Merida, Mexico.  Their presentations highlighted results of a recent global survey of oyster reef condition, and how shellfish co-management efforts and restoration projects in North America, South America and Europe are delivering an array of ecosystem services including increased reef fish productivity, protection of eroding shorelines, and enhanced opportunities for production of native shellfish.
“Oyster reefs at risk: restoring a globally imperiled ecosystem”, Dr. Mike Beck, The Nature Conservancy, United States
“Impacts of fisheries, governance and climate in Latin American shellfisheries, and potential actions for restoration strategies”, Dr. Omar Defeo, Faculdad de Ciencias, Uruguay
“Disminución de los bancos de moluscos bivalves en Venezuela: estrategias para su restauración”, Dr. César Lodeiros, Universidad de Cumana, Venezuela
“Ecodynamic solutions for the protection of intertidal habitats: the use of oyster reefs”, Dr. Tom Ysebaert, IMARES, Netherlands
“Achieving ecosystem scale oyster reef restoration through a National Partnership with NOAA’s Community-based Restoration Program”, Dr. Boze Hancock, The Nature Conservancy, United States
In the discussion that followed the presentations, a few key themes emerged: projects should be designed with specific objectives in mind, and these should be understood by all stakeholders; projects should be monitored over time to allow for adaptive management and reporting on outcomes; and projects should be designed for persistence, given anticipated changes to local and global conditions that can affect the viability of bivalve populations and their associated habitat.

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Synthesis study underway design of large-scale oyster reef restoration projects

AL_Oyster Reef Installed W Booms 169

Reef restoration at a TNC ARRA site using ReefBLK(tm) technology at Coffee Island in Portersville Bay, AL.
Credit: Beth Maynor Young © 2010

Oyster reefs are one of the most imperiled marine habitats globally and because they provide numerous services for nature and people, including water filtration, shoreline protection, and habitat for fish and wildlife, the large-scale loss is cause for concern. To reverse this loss, there is increasing interest and investment in restoring oyster reef habitat.  Oyster reefs are still in fair condition in the Gulf of Mexico, which provides a strong impetus for both conservation of remaining reefs and targeted restoration of degraded reefs.  Projects have been implemented at various scales across the northern Gulf of Mexico over the past decade, using various types of hard substrate materials – recycled shell, concrete and river rock, for example. Projects have also been implemented in various physical configurations in locations where additional oyster reef habitat is desired, with reef materials deployed in gabion-like cages, in shell bags, or deployed directly onto the bottom.  To ensure that past projects inform both future restoration projects and restoration at a regional scale, there are key scientific questions that need to be addressed.  One of the most basic and pressing questions is how well these projects have met their original objectives over time.  

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has teamed up with the USGS Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, the Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Renewable Natural Resources (LSU Agricultural Center), and LSU Biological Sciences to conduct a Gulf-wide assessment of restoration project performance over time. This assessment focuses primarily on subtidal oyster reefs constructed for fish habitat purposes and has two main components. The first component is a comprehensive review of oyster reef restoration projects across the northern Gulf of Mexico. The researchers have located, mapped, and collected all available information (i.e., material type, cost, and any available reports or monitoring data) from more than 200 oyster restoration projects Gulf-wide. The second component is a field study where the research team is investigating, more closely, a subsample of the identified reefs to measure a set of functional services. Specifically, the team is comparing eight reefs of different ages and material types (oyster shell, limestone/concrete) with eight natural reefs (control) from Texas to Florida and is collecting data on local environmental and habitat conditions, the composition and condition of oyster populations and nekton communities to evaluate the development of reefs, and the provision of habitat for nekton over time. Additionally, the research team is investigating the role of these restored reefs in providing habitat for juvenile blue crabs.  When completed, this study will help to illustrate how different materials perform over time and affect their ability to both support oyster populations and associated nekton communities. The project will be completed in late 2012 and results will be incorporated into the Gulf of Mexico Restoration Decision Support System, to aid in designing restoration projects across the Gulf of Mexico that provide long
term ecosystem benefits.  
For more information, contact: Bryan Piazza (

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Upcoming Events and Conferences

Coastal Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) Bi-ennial Conference: “Societies, Estuaries and Coasts: Adapting to Change”. 
Daytona Beach, Florida
November 6-11, 2011

National Shellfisheries Association (NSA) 104th Annual Conference
Seattle, Washington
March 25-29, 2012
Abstract Deadline: December 1, 2011.  

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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Oyster Restoration Publications and Resources

Oyster Reefs as Natural Breakwaters Mitigate Shoreline Loss and Facilitate Fisheries

Oyster Restoration Working Group Research and Reports

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

Cool Video!

“Sink Your Shucks” Shell Recycling Program. Harte Research Institute, Texas A & M University, Corpus Christi, Texas.

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


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