A new devolopment with Artificial Reefs from the US
As thousands of children build sand castles on Eastern Shore beaches this summer, thousands of other youngsters are gathering, unseen, on a unique kind of underwater castle.
Two 100-foot-long oyster reefs, made up of 1,200 concrete “oyster castle” pieces, were recently built in the coastal bay offshore of Boxtree Farm in Northampton County.
“By now, oyster spat (baby oysters) are beginning to attach and grow on this artificial substrate,” predicts the project’s coordinator Alex Wilke of The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve (TNCVCR).
Earlier this spring staff from TNCVCR, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and volunteers, including Virginia Master Naturalist Frank Renshaw of Exmore, individually placed the 30-pound “oyster castles” in two long rows.
The “castles,” which resemble giant grey Lego pieces, were donated by Allied Concrete of Charlottesville.
“Building the reef was hard work,” recalls Renshaw. “First we had to load the heavy concrete pieces into the skiffs, and after a short boat ride, we tossed the concrete pieces overboard at the designated spot. Next, we all jumped in the knee to hip-deep water and assembled the ‘castle’ pieces into a three-tiered structure on the mud bottom of the bay.”
Renshaw, who is also vice-president of the Eastern Shore Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists, is quick to add that the work was also quite satisfying. “While traveling to the worksite, we passed another reef constructed in 2010 using the same technique. It was so covered with oysters that I could barely see the concrete oyster castle building blocks.”
The purpose of these artificial reefs is to increase oyster habitat and protect adjacent shorelinesfrom increasing rates of erosion due to sea level rise. They also enhance the biodiversity of our coastal bays, as many bird and marine species use oyster reefs for feeding.