An oysterman carefully dumps concrete pieces onto one of the offshore restoration experiment sites. The green site, marked out by a 16-foot PVC pole has 12 inches of concrete pieces and 3 inches of shell on top.

The Apalachicola Bay System Initiative
Newsletter – May 2023

The ABSI mission: to gain insight into the root causes of decline of the Apalachicola Bay ecosystem with a focus on oyster reefs, and ultimately, with guidance from the Community Advisory Board and input from stakeholders and the public, to develop science-informed restoration and ecosystem-based management plans focused on the recovery of oyster reefs and the health of Apalachicola Bay.

Oyster Reef Restoration Experiments

Earlier this month, the Apalachicola Bay System Initiative (ABSI) completed its second round of oyster reef restoration experiments. With the help of almost 20 local oystermen and women, they were able to effectively deploy 416 cubic yards of limerock, 416 cubic yards of concrete, and 96 cubic yards of shell into the Cat Point area of Apalachicola.

These materials were strategically deployed between 16 sites (50 ft x 26 ft) along the Cat Point region, approximately 2,000 feet southeast from the nearest shoreline. The 16 sites were further broken down into 4 areas with 4 distinct treatment types. Treatments were comprised of the following:

2-6” limerock deployed 15” high
2-6” limerock deployed 12” high with 3” of cured shell deployed on top
4-6” concrete deployed 15” high
4-6” concrete deployed 12” high with 3” of cured shell deployed on top.

The deployment will help to further clarify how substrate type (limerock, concrete, and shell) potentially affects oyster growth rates and mortality, spat settlement, predator presence and overall oyster health. ABSI aims to continuously monitor these 16 sites over the next 2 years.

A deployment at this scale would not have been successfully completed in only five days if it was not for the support and collaboration of local oystermen and women. ABSI researchers are excited to monitor the sites and are looking forward to sharing their results with the public in due time!

ABSI Technician Adin Domen monitors how much of which substrate is being deployed between the buoys at one of the offshore restoration experiment sites.

ABSI Shellfish Restoration and Research Hatchery Update
Hatchery technicians mix larvae to allow for even spreading in tank.
Microscopic picture of newly settled spat.
Hatchery technician Landen Millender pours larvae into settling tank.

The ABSI Shellfish Restoration and Research Hatchery had its first oyster spawn of the year the first week of April. They had about 130 million oyster larvae. To monitor survival throughout the larval period, hatchery staff estimated the number of larvae every other day using subsampling methods. Staff would fill 6-liter containers with larvae, count samples from the container, and calculate the number of larvae in each container.

A few weeks later, they set roughly 2 million larvae on recycled shell*. They ended up with an estimated 270,000 successfully settled spat on these shells, which is about a 13% settlement rate. This rate is comparable to most hatchery methods for setting spat-on-shell. This was the first batch of larvae successfully set in the new hatchery, and this spat will be used for various research experiments conducted by ABSI faculty, students, and staff.
*Note – these larvae were not the same larvae from the spawn mentioned above.

Community Advisory Board (CAB)
The CAB is exploring ways for a new group to stay connected to the project after this year and help implement elements of its Restoration and Management Plan Framework adopted in November 2021. The CAB met on April 12th at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR). The meeting began with a CAB work plan presentation from Jeff Blair followed by an overview of the Shiny App, a user-friendly app in development by post-doc Dr. Fabio Caltabellota. This app is a management decision support tool, meaning users will be able to plug in various management scenarios related to the oyster fishery and see potential outcomes.

Next, members received an update on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Restoration from Devin Resko (FWC) and later, a Hydrographic Modeling update from Dr. Steve Morey and Dr. Xu Chen. The rest of the meeting was spent focused on ranking strategies as the CAB works to finalize its Apalachicola Bay Restoration and Management Plan Framework.

In the evening, ABSI hosted a Community Workshop, inviting members of the community to drop by and talk with the scientists, faculty, and staff of ABSI, as well as officials from FWC. Thank you to everyone who came out! We will be hosting another one on August 9th at ANERR. More details to come.

ABSI strives to be transparent and to make the project’s information and communications easily accessible and understandable. Please let us know how we can improve our communications, or if you have any suggestions on how to best reach members within our local community. Email Outreach Coordinator Maddie Mahood at [email protected].

The entire history of the deliberations from each of the 26 meetings (22 CAB meetings and 4 Oystermen’s Workshops) since March 2020, including copies of all presentations and meeting recordings, are available on the ABSI Community Advisory Board website.

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