Using an reef ball remedy and a salty oyster shell base, portions of Georgia's 105-mile coast are enjoying an ecological makeover in hopes of restoring its youthful vibrancy.
But this makeover is anything but cosmetic, and the lasting effects will have major benefits for the coastline, the state, and Georgia recreational anglers.
Along the shorelines in Chatham, Bryan, and Camden counties, volunteers and contractors have placed nearly 1 million pounds of reinforcing materials, with the aim of creating new fishing opportunities for anglers and foundations for future oyster beds. The reef projects are managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Coastal Resources Division (CRD).
Recreational anglers will enjoy the benefits of the restoration efforts near Fort McAlister State Park on the border of Chatham and Bryan counties. There, 400 concrete reef balls were set in the Ogeechee River Inshore Artificial Reef. Reef balls were donated by No Shoes Reefs, and volunteers helped with the placements. Reef balls have been proven effective in attracting and supporting marine life, improving fish habitat and protecting coastal areas, according to Georgia's DNR.
Down the coast near Camden County, a large project using heavy equipment mounted on barges deployed 400 tons of concrete pilings as an enhancement to the Stafford Island Inshore Artificial Reef. The effort was funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration program. Revenue for such projects is generated from manufacturers’ excise taxes on sport fishing equipment, import duties on fishing tackle and pleasure boats, and the portion of the gasoline fuel tax attributable to small engines and motorboats, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Aiming to restore Georgia's coastal oyster population, Georgia's CRD has partnered with University of Georgia’s Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant (MAREX) in an innovative reef experiment. Funded through a Coastal Incentive Grant, the Romerly Creek Inshore Artificial Reef in Chatham County’s Wassaw has deploying oyster shells with spat -- essentially baby oysters -- already settled on it. The work is seen as an option for restoring oyster populations more effectively outside the oyster spawning season.
In addition to restoring and protecting Georgia's coastal estuaries, these and other DNR projects contribute to recreational and commercial fisheries. According to the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Sea Grant, Georgia's coast is home to a large variety of fish, shrimp, blue crabs, oysters, clams, whelk and other species.
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