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Oyster Restoration

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Restoring our Lynnhaven River native oyster population has been an important part of our restoration efforts from the beginning of our organization. Surveys have identified approximately 102 acres of baseline restored oyster reef in the Lynnhaven River including Broad Bay, Linkhorn Bay, the Inlet and the Eastern and Western Branches. About 66 acres is subtidal restored reef constructed over the past fifteen years and the remaining 36 acres are constructed over natural shoreline or intertidal reef. Our next milestone is 152 acres of restored oyster reef. This has been determined to be the acreage needed to sustain a healthy oyster population in the Lynnhaven. Working with our federal, state, and local government partners – along with our educational and nonprofit partners – we are making steady progress toward reaching our goal.

Recent and upcoming oyster restoration projects: 

  • Laila Oyster Castle Reef on Broad Bay Island
    The Laila reef lines the northwest shoreline of Broad Bay Island and is both our first and our largest oyster castle project. It protects the narrow undeveloped point of Broad Bay Island from erosion and provides habitat for an amazing array of oysters, sponges and other marine critters in Long Creek. The reef was built in three phases starting in spring 2012 and ending in spring 2014. One of our hopes was that we would see the accretion of sand and the spread of marsh grasses behind the castles as the waves were calmer and the shoreline stabilized. We are very happy to say that has happened faster than we expected. Where oysters thrive, so do our marsh grasses.
    The Laila reef is named after our friend Laila Serpe, daughter of Richard and Linda Serpe, who was taken from this world much too soon. Many of her Cape Henry Collegiate School classmates have volunteered to help with construction and maintenance of the Laila reef over the years.


  • Community Reef in the Eastern Branch constructed in Spring 2017
    In spring 2017, 19,000 bushels of oyster shells from our shell collection program were used to build the Community Reef in the Eastern Branch of the Lynnhaven. This was our first sanctuary reef in the Eastern Branch. The settlement of oysters on this reef has surpassed all expectations and their growth rate has been tremendous. After only eighteen months, our tonging survey brought up one to two inch oysters in healthy clusters. Oysters this size were found on all areas of the reef. We can’t wait to see how large and plentiful they have become.


  •  Mary Louise Crutsinger Gayle Memorial Oyster Reef constructed in Spring 2021
    A  tribute to one of  the victims of the VB mass shootings lives on in LRNow’s newest oyster reef, the Mary Louise Crutsinger Gayle Memorial Oyster Reef. Mary Lou worked for the City’s Public Works Department as a right of way agent. Over the years, she was helpful in finding and creating contiguous spaces in the Lynnhaven River where LRNow and other environmentalist groups could build oyster reefs. We are so pleased to be able to memorialize her in this way. She will be truly missed. The one-acre reef was completed the winter of 2020. LRNow held a dedication ceremony on the river in the spring of 2021. We hope you saw the press coverage in the Virginian-Pilot and on WTKR-TV.



  • Upcoming Reefs

The plans have been made, the grant funds obtained and the partners are all in place to build at least twelve acres of restored reef at various locations in the Western Branch of the Lynnhaven. The Witchduck reef locations will be the first subtidal reef work in the Western Branch of the Lynnhaven. We hope to see results that match the tremendous growth we have seen in the Eastern Branch. We are using crushed concrete in lieu of oyster shells (which would be the best substrate) because there simply aren’t enough oyster shells for this size project. Concrete and oyster shells both have the same base compound (calcium carbonate) which attracts the free swimming oyster larvae. We have done extensive research and field experiments and have found crushed concrete is the next best thing after oyster shells to create a reef. After we complete the substrate reef construction, our partner in this project (CBF) will seed the reefs with about 4 million “spat” which are tiny baby oysters that have settled on shells. All of those won’t survive, but we hope a good percentage will. In addition to that seeding, we hope and expect natural settlement of the reefs to add at least an equal amount of baby oysters over the first couple of years. So potentially these reefs could result in millions of adult oysters eventually. Click here to read more on the Pilot Online.


Watch how we build!

All of these oysters are helping to clean the water and provide habitat not only for baby oysters to attach and grow, but for sponges, worms, crabs, and juvenile fish to shelter and grow. Each reef becomes an ecosystem supporting a healthy marine environment.

One adult oyster can filet 50 gallons of water per day. Look what these amazing oysters can do over the course of 1 hour!




Watch this video to learn more about our Oyster Restoration Program!

Provided by The Meridian Group



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