Engaging the community in restoration of oyster habitat in the San Francisco Bay.
Have you ever wondered what’s under the water of San Francisco Bay? More than you might imagine, but not as much as there once was. Our Wild Shorelines program aims to help people appreciate the rich potential for healthy underwater habitats in the Bay and along its shoreline.
Olympia oysters, native to the California coast, are small but mighty.
1. Oysters provide key ecosystem services along our shorelines. They build reefs by attaching to hard substrates, such as rocks and each other, creating habitat that shelters other ocean life and increases ecosystem diversity.
2. Oysters are filter feeders, collecting nutrients and expelling cleaner water. Olympia oysters can filter up to 12 gallons of water per day. Aquatic plants like eelgrass benefit because light can penetrate further down in clearer water, allowing more photosynthesis to take place.
3. The reef structures created by oysters provide a buffer for our shorelines, reducing wave energy before it reaches land. This will be increasingly important as climate change and the associated sea level rise changes our coastlines.
Pollution, over-harvesting and habitat loss led to the collapse of Olympia oyster populations in the San Francisco Bay during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Bay-wide monitoring over the last decade has revealed residual oyster populations at more than 10 sites around the bay, one of which is at the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline in Richmond.
In 2013, The Watershed Project deployed 100 community-built reef balls at Point Pinole, made by volunteers from concrete, bay sand, and crushed oyster shells. In an area that is primarily mudflat, these balls act as substrate for the oysters to attach to. Our restoration project is now monitored twice a year by volunteers, and as of Fall 2016 we had approximately 30,000 oysters in total on the reef balls, and they’re attracting other organisms as well. The presence of tasty invertebrates attracts fish and birds, increasing biodiversity in the area.
Funding for this project came The Nature Conservancy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Contra Costa County Fish and Wildlife Committee, the Goodman Foundation, the Norcross Wildlife Foundation, and Dixon Marine Services.
For more information, please contact Helen Fitanides at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Citizen Science Monitoring
Including the community in oyster habitat restoration is very important to us. Each year we work with volunteers of all ages who learn to monitor the reef for oysters as well as other invertebrates and algae. The data we collect is analyzed and shared with the oyster restoration community. By involving the community in the restoration of our shared spaces, we can share our vision of a healthy watershed for all. Please contact Helen Fitanides (email@example.com) if you are interested in becoming an oyster monitor!
Our Wild Oysters education program provides classroom and outdoor experiential learning for middle and high school students around the San Francisco Bay to educate and inspire students to take care of our shorelines. Learn more about this program, and other education programs, here.
A Guide to Olympia Oyster Restoration and Conservation
This guide covers environmental conditions and sites that support sustainable populations of Olympia oysters in Central California.
San Francisco Bay Subtidal Habitat Goals Report
This conservation plan for the submerged areas of the San Francisco Bay touches on Olympia oyster habitat restoration along with other habitats.
Across the bay from Point Pinole, The Coastal Conservancy is spearheading a pilot project to compare different oyster restoration substrates, as well as transplanting eelgrass. Find out more about their project here.