Once again we decided to be oyster gardeners for the summer. The family with the pier we used last year said we could use it again.
I rounded up 4 other families to help out so we could take turns. Every 5th week we would go clean the oyster cages, remove preditors such as crabs, worms, and oyster drills and scrub the crud off of the oysters and spat. Spat is what the growing oysters are called from their larval stage. They settle on a hard surface (in this case an old, full-sized oyster shell) and grow. When all were clean, we measured a sampling of the spat. The measurements would be sent to the Auburn Shell Lab and they would keep a record of ours and other oyster garden statistics from around the Gulf for their research purposes.
We’ve had fun this summer and the oyster garden season is coming to a close. They’ll be picked up by the Auburn researchers in a few weeks. Shortly after they’ll be added to a reef in the Mobile Bay.
Oyster gardening was a fun homeschool science project for us. Austin is studying Marine Biology this year and it just added to the education. For Travis, well, he likes to do the scrubbing but he learned some things too. Other families involved with our oysters used the time to learn and to enjoy the outdoors. The Bay is really shallow and makes for a great place to kayak, canoe, fish or swim and some of the families took advantage of this. Oyster gardening is a highly recommended activity.
The boys and I picked up a bag of oysters for the oyster gardening project this morning. Five other families have joined us to care for 50 shells covered in spawned oysters until November. These families are: Biggs, Williams, Huete, Seaborg, and Grant. All of the families are members of 4H and the children are homeschooled. This is a science/4H project to teach the children (ages 5 through 16) about our eco-system by learning one part of it and relating the importance of the part to the whole.
Our cages are hanging from a pier just north of the CR1 boat ramp. What a lovely area on the Mobile Bay and easy to get to.
Each week we will be checking the oysters and cleaning them of barnacles, drills and crabs. We have to take growth measurements and report them to the folks at the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program. This is basically a reef-restoration project we are involved in.
By November the oysters go to a non-commercial reef in the Bay to help keep the water clean. We need it with the oil off our coast.
Last weekend I learned how to be an oyster gardener along the Mobile Bay.
The oyster garden restoration project is getting underway and I’ve signed up, with some interested 4-H families, to participate. I’m armed with oyster cages, some measuring tools and knowledge. I just need to find a location for the garden. There are specific areas in the Bay that are designated legal for these gardens.
What we’ll do is collect 100 oysters from the Auburn Shell Lab folks who will distribute them mid-June. We’ll separate them into the 4 cages and hang them in the Bay water from underneath a pier. Each week, until November when the oysters are collected by the Auburn oyster garden staff, we’ll check on the oysters. Our duties will be to measure the oysters, shake the cages to allow predators to drop out, clean the cages of barnacles and replace them in the water. We have to report what we’ve done and the data we’ve collected. The plan is that by November the oysters spawning activities would have produced more oysters that would have set on the existing shells and grown along with the larger ones. When they’re collected in November they’ll be put into the restoration reef somewhere else along the Bay.
We need to find a pier. I’ll be heading out along Scenic 98 next week to scope out locations and knock on doors. Hopefully someone will let our 4-H group use their pier for an underwater garden location.
In a few weeks we’ll head over to the Auburn Shell Lab on Dauphin Island to investigate what they do there.
Check out the website for the project: www.oystergardening.org. Be sure to watch the video and the link for adopting an oyster garden. Thanks