Local Coasties help in oyster restoration effort

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Sep 08, 2010 - 04:07 PM

With help from the U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team at Milford Haven, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation last week placed over 200,000 seed oysters on a nursery reef in the Piankatank River.

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s oyster restoration and fisheries scientist Tommy Leggett, left, and reef ball technician Laura Engelund accept baskets of oysters from Fireman Alexander Kaczor and Chief Boatswains Mate Benjamin Brown of the U.S. Coast Guard during a restoration effort last week at a reef in the Piankatank River. CBF volunteer Barbara Raab is in the background. Photo by Sherry Hamilton.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s oyster restoration and fisheries scientist Tommy Leggett, left, and reef ball technician Laura Engelund accept baskets of oysters from Fireman Alexander Kaczor and Chief Boatswains Mate Benjamin Brown of the U.S. Coast Guard during a restoration effort last week at a reef in the Piankatank River. CBF volunteer Barbara Raab is in the background. Photo by Sherry Hamilton.

Coast Guard volunteers lined up along the dock at the station to load 50 bushels of oysters onto their 55-foot Aids to Navigation boat, then they sailed the boat to the nearby oyster reef. Once there, they passed the bushel baskets along to civilian volunteers, who loaded them onto CBF’s small skiff and dumped them overboard onto the reef.

Tommy Leggett, oyster restoration and fisheries scientist at CBF’s Virginia Oyster Restoration Center, said the foundation has placed close to 30 million oysters on four reefs in the Piankatank over the past five years.

"We hope to bring back the ecological function of oysters in the river," he said. "Plus the protected oysters will spawn and their larvae will go everywhere."

The Piankatank is a seed river, Leggett explained, and the reefs there are protected from commercial activity, so the oysters can grow, develop disease resistance, and spawn lots of healthy babies.

"The strong ones live and the weak ones die," he said. "It takes time, but it’s happening."