LONG BEACH (CNS) - Volunteers are set today to suspend strings of oyster shells throughout Alamitos Bay in Long Beach in an effort to restore populations of the Olympia oyster in Southern California.
Orange County Coastkeeper, in partnership with the California State Coastal Conservancy and California State University, Long Beach, has solicited help from the Long Beach Yacht Club to assist in the ongoing habitat restoration project in the Jack Dunster Marine Biological Reserve.
Volunteers are required to reserve a time slot to pick up the oyster shell strings and maintain a safe distance, and other safety protocols including wearing masks and gloves and using hand sanitizer after touching surfaces will be strictly enforced, according to Orange County Coastkeeper.
The placement of oyster shells in the bay will allow locally produced native oyster larvae to grow, providing additional habitat for the larvae, according to the organization.
Participants will retrieve the shell strings in a period of about 30 to 45 days -- after the “native oyster recruitment'' or spawning season -- and return them to the Coastkeeper team, with the collected shell strings with young oysters then set to be placed on a mudflat and into a community oyster restoration site in the marine reserve.
Olympia oysters -- which once covered large expanses of intertidal areas -- are one of the only native oyster species on the West Coast of the United States and Canada, according to Orange County Coastkeeper's website.
Over-harvesting, increased coastal development, destruction of wetlands and increased water pollution led to significant declines of the native Olympia oyster, beginning in the 1900s, according to Orange County Coastkeeper, which noted that the loss of entire habitats for Olympia oysters negatively impacted the critical ecological benefits provided by once healthy, fully-functioning components of estuarine ecosystems.
The organization noted that one adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, allowing sunlight to penetrate so that foundations of the food chain, including eelgrass, can thrive.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images