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FLORIDA | Calusa Waterkeepers create oyster garden to aid water quality

The call to help the environment through these unique "gardens"
Posted at 6:27 PM, Oct 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-09 20:27:40-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — You may be keeping our waterways cleaner the next time you order oysters at dinner.

The Calusa Waterkeepers, a non-profit organization, has been creating vertical oyster gardens made from recycled shells from local restaurants. They're also known as VOGs.

"The shells sit here for four to five months and they naturally disinfect," explained Waterkeeper Codty Pierce as he pointed at shells on the ground at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Over the weekend, the organization hosted its second workshop in an area set up next to the Food Forest Pavilion. After the shells are disinfected, they are moved to the second station.

“It’s pretty sophisticated. We put the shells in the bucket and take them over here where the volunteers are drilling the shells.”

Volunteers drill a single hole in each shell before they’re taken to the third and final station. This is where about thirty shells are strung onto a rope.

“Once they’re assembled, they’ll sit just below the water column," said Pierce as he held up one of the vertical oyster garden strings. “Any type of shellfish that attaches to this vertical access is a benefit to us whether that is barnacles or mussels or even better soliciting more oyster growth.”

The sea life will attach to the shells and continue to grow. The organization currently has about thirty VOGs in the water across Southwest Florida. Pierce said a single oyster can filter 50 gallons of water per day ultimately keeping our waterways a little cleaner.

“It’s a cost-effective and organic way to be able to clean the water, and it offsets some of the water impairments we’re currently experiencing."

An issue volunteer Don Lees said he doesn’t mind dedicating his spare time to.

“I think it’s important to do as much as you can for the environment, and I’ve been a Calusa Water Ranger for five years," he said.

Pierce said the organization hopes to have a third workshop by the beginning of November, and they're always looking for more volunteers which you can learn more about by clicking here.