We are trying out oyster gardening!
To help us, we got Vertical Oyster Gardens from Tampa Bay Watch. VOG’s are empty oyster shells on a vertical rope. They are meant to serve as a substrate to encourage existing Oyster larvae to attach and grow. “Spat“ is the larvae after it attaches to a substrate. They are meant to be hung from estuarine docks.
Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) are important to Tampa Bay because they help prevent shoreline erosion and property damage, provide habitats and food for creatures, and filter our water—1 to 5 gallons every hour! We are hoping maybe more sea grasses can grow for the manatee here if sunlight was able to reach the bottom of the Bay.
The best part of this activity are the great tools!
a drill to attach the VOG to the dock
2. A secchi disk to measure water turbidity.
3. And a hydrometer to determine water salinity.
There are oysters growing by the dock, so we already know they can grow here. We almost stepped on one that was growing on our ladder step. (It accidentally got left down.)
We are hoping to improve water clarity with the additional oyster growth, and the secchi disk will help us have fun measuring it. The hydrometer will tell us how much the salinity changes in our area.
As we monitor our spat growth on the VOGs, we are also looking for barnacles (which we already see on the pilings and mangroves by the dock), invasive green mussels, and sea squirts (from hanging the VOG too far down close to the bottom).
After a few months, we have only identified barnacles and a few mangrove crabs! So, we will try a different spot on the dock for the next VOG, and maybe lower it a bit further down into the water column.
Yes! We now have oysters.