"When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first that is still to come."
Leonardo da Vinci
The San Francisco Bay is the largest estuary on the West Coast of the U.S. where fresh water from the Central Valley mixes with the salt water of the Pacific. Crabs, clams, fish and birds live in its deepwater channels, marshes and tidelands.

Oyster Shells, Sand, Cement, and YOU

Building a Community Oyster Reef

By Chris Lim

Oyster shell, check. Sand, check. Cement, check. Humans, check.

Oyster reef balls do not build themselves. They are a mixture of separate components that together create habitat for the only oyster native to the West Coast: the Olympia oyster. The process depends on peoples' ingenuity and dedication to restoring oyster habitat. The Watershed Project is building 100 reef balls to be placed along the Richmond shoreline at Point Pinole Regional Park.

reefball Our native oyster reef is a special opportunity for the community to restore an ecosystem that is one of the most severely affected marine habitats in the world. By placing oyster reef balls in the water, the swimming larvae of oysters can find a hard place to attach and call home. But before you grab some mignonette, know that the oysters we restore are not meant for happy hour consumption. Oysters have several ecosystem benefits, including providing habitat for other small critters, such as crabs, worms, and macroinvertebrates. These in turn become food for larger animals, like salmon and birds. Oyster reef balls themselves have benefits as well. They can serve as natural buffers against storm surges, which may become stronger due to climate change, and could also help slow bank erosion.

So what could one expect when volunteering to make oyster reef balls? First, know that you are part of a small community of people on the cutting edge of oyster restoration in San Francisco Bay. Second, expect to be outdoors with a (hopefully) sunny view of the San Francisco skyline. Third, we're mixing Bay-Crete, a mixture of oyster shell and sand (dredged from the Bay by our supporters at Jerico Products), and cement, so expect to get a little, or maybe even more than a little, dirty. Next, there is some lifting involved so feel free to skip your workout for the day. Last, you will go home knowing that your effort and enthusiasm will lead to a thriving oyster ecosystem in your local watershed.

If you are interested in volunteering to build oyster reef balls, please contact Chris at chris@thewatershedproject.org or call 510-214-6897.

Want to see the reef building process in more detail? Check out this time-lapse video of us making oyster reef balls: