By Chris Lim
Hooray, we finally did it! This past Friday, we adorned the San Francisco Bay with our native oyster reef along the North Richmond shoreline in Point Pinole Regional Park. Friday’s installation was a culmination of many days and years of demanding work, work highlighting people’s dedication to making the Bay a healthier place. Work either touched by an agency ally, community volunteer, or local supporter.
A range of people attended this eventful day, each with a common connection: the Olympia oyster. As the only oyster native to the west coast of North America, we all appreciate the role oysters play in a healthy ecosystem. Oysters provide habitat for small organisms such as amphipods, worms, and crabs, that are food for larger animals like salmon and birds.
Under a bright sun and pleasant breeze, community members enjoyed oysters on the half shell, while observing the crew of Dixon Marine Services, a local oceanographic company, lower 100 reef balls into the water. Throughout the day, people had a variety of questions about our 250 pound reef balls, but the one on the tip of everyone’s tongue was, “Can we eat the oysters growing on them?” We need people to understand that our project is rooted in science and the oysters are NOT to be eaten. Our Bay and its infinite connections to the people of the Bay, is inevitably affected by the pollution entering our Estuary. Oysters are filter feeders, so in order to eat, adult oysters filter almost 10 gallons of water per day. Oysters can store some of these pollutants in their bodies, and excrete them as well. But one day we envision a swimmable and edible Bay.
Though our project is rooted in science our native oyster reef is really about our community. This reef will benefit the health of San Francisco Bay for years to come because a small group of proactive people decided to make positive environmental choices together. Whether one helped push through a permit, got dirty making reef balls, monitored oysters, or donated services, their imprint is a lasting part of the oyster reef. The reef is another opportunity to connect people with their watershed. The reef becomes an outdoor classroom in our high school curriculum, Wild! Oysters. Students come face-to-face with actual live oysters in the field and monitor them just as marine scientists would. We will also engage community volunteers to monitor the reef for oyster recruitment and the percent cover of other organisms.
We all worked together to do something good for our Bay, and provide Mother Nature with the kick-start she needs. So now the reef balls will allow nature to take its course, letting hundreds of thousands newly attached oysters, or spat, to filter pollutants from the Bay. Our reef is a great example of what an organized community is able to accomplish.
Photo Credits: Andrew Whitmore, Greening Urban Watersheds Intern