“The Reef Makers”
By Scott McMillion
Nature Conservancy Magazine
Also at stake in the Gulf of Mexico: Miles of restored oyster beds
Nature Conservancy Magazine online posted an update to this article:
In December 2009 Nature Conservancy magazine reported on a project to build 1.5 miles of oyster reefs on the Alabama coast. About 60 percent of the manmade reefs were installed when the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20.
The oil spill now threatens the new reefs. The project, described below, is halted and the Conservancy and partners are helping with oil containment efforts when and where they can.
Excerpt from “The Reef Makers“:
Oysters don’t sing. But they do make music. Drag a set of long-handled oyster tongs across the muddy bottom of Alabama’s Fowl River Bay, and you might hear the melody. It’s something the old-time oystermen call chirping.
It’s an odd sound, this clinking of oyster shells on rusty steel rakes: Imagine a wind chime doing its job under a couple feet of water. While this is sweet music to an oysterman’s ears — it sounds like money, food, another day of keeping the wolf from the door — the tune rings hollow around here these days. In 2009, state officials closed Alabama’s shores to oyster harvest.
The oysters of Fowl River Bay, Heron Bay and Portersville Bay, all part of the vast Mississippi Sound/Mobile Bay ecosystem along the coast of Alabama, have been hammered over the past few years and many have died, leaving empty shells that make a flat song. They’ve suffered what the locals call a perfect storm of perils: major hurricanes, extensive drought and a proliferation of killer snails.
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