Oyster Gardening Details

The Brevard Oyster Gardening project, launched by Brevard Zoo in partnership with the Brevard County Natural Resources Management Office, encourages the community to get involved with repairing damages to the lagoon. Inspired by the oyster reef restoration work  Brevard Zoo has been doing with UCF in Mosquito Lagoon, the Oyster Gardening Project has expanded reef restoration into the more challenging Brevard County portion of the Indian River Lagoon by first collecting data to identify areas with high rates of oyster survivability and recruitment that are good candidate locations for  reef restoration projects. Oysters grown through the Oyster Gardening program are then used to populate Brevard County restoration reefs, the first of which were built in the fall of 2014, accomplishing both habitat restoration and oyster reintroduction…

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In order to grow oysters and collect the data used for reef building, the Brevard County Commissioners funded the project with $150,000 to supply a small staff and provide the necessary equipment to train volunteers in Brevard County to become “oyster gardeners.” The project relies entirely on these volunteers living along the shores of the Indian River Lagoon who agree to hang oyster habitats from their docks and then care for and monitor their oysters to collect data on the growth, survivability, and recruitment of oysters in their area, all of which gets entered into a database on a weekly basis for a period of about six  months.

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Oyster gardeners first attend a special workshop where they learn all the details of the program and build their own oyster habitats. Later, they receive oyster shells covered with live spat (juvenile oysters), which they place into their habitats and then deploy from their docks, beginning the care and data collection process. To ensure the greatest probability of success, the oyster spat used in the Oyster Gardening project are spawned from a local brood stock near Sebastian, FL. Their spawning takes place at the Florida Oceanographic Society, in a hatchery dedicated to the reproduction of the Eastern Oyster. Using a local population of oysters from Brevard County to parent our oyster spat will keep future generations of oysters in restored populations genetically similar to those that once made up the area’s original population.

Click link to read the Oyster Gardening 2014 Annual Report.

Want to learn more about our reef-building process? Check out this video: 

Empowering the Community to act for our Lagoon