After a little bit of lemon juice and cocktail sauce, an oyster has served its purpose for most, but not for one Florida county.
Over the last few years, St. John’s County has been in a predicament to protect Wright’s Landing, a historic site which was the likely location of a 17th Century Spanish mission, from an intrusive waterline.
In the last year, with financial backing from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, volunteers have been collecting used oyster shells from coastal restaurants and placed them on the shorelines of the Tolomato River, according to The Florida Times-Union. The oysters have formed a man-made reef, which has since become the home of 40 species of sea dwellers, according to the article.
The oyster reef acts as a barrier between incoming waves from ships and boats, decreasing the wave’s energy before it hits the Wright’s Landing coastline.
There have been signs of life thanks to the artificial reef. Where the tide was previously killing off and pushing the site’s natural vegetation back, new sprigs of grass have started to grow.
Baby oysters have also found a home at the reef. Typically, the young oysters would die if they didn’t find an oyster bed to cling to, according to the article. This means more oysters are breeding and settling in the area, creating a new local economy for oysters in restaurants and markets in the area.