Vincent Encomio, PhD, Research Scientist, spearheads the effort to restore the oyster population devastated by fresh-water discharges into the estuary that began in 2005 and continues today! The oysters are critical to cleaning the water and providing habitat and food for up to 300 estuarine species.
The FL.O.O.R. (Florida Oceanographic Oyster Restoration) program actively engages the public in restoring oyster reef habitat. With the aid of thousands of volunteers, FL.O.O.R. restores oyster habitat by recycling shell, constructing reefs and growing oysters.
Why are Oysters Important?
- They filter and clean water - A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day!
- They provide food and habitat for hundreds of species
- They stabilize shorelines and reduce erosion
- They are the most important commercial bivalve in the world
- Over the last 60+ years, the St. Lucie River has lost over 80% of its oyster reef habitat, primarily due to poor water quality and low salinity levels.
Oyster Shell Recycling
Weekly shell collections from local partner restaurants generate nearly 2.5 tons of oyster shell per month. The shells are quarantined and then bagged by staff and volunteers and deployed to create new oyster-shell reefs in the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River estuaries. Their progress is monitored using cutting-edge acoustic technology. These efforts help restore important oyster habitat, leading to long-term and significant improvements to the health of our waterways.
Oyster Reef Restoration
To date, Florida Oceanographic Society has restored nearly 60,000 square feet of oyster reefs in the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon. This was made possible by the help of over 2,400 volunteers and over 6,000 volunteer hours.
Oyster Reef Monitoring & Research
FL.O.O.R. monitors the development and health of natural and constructed oyster reefs to evaluate the success of our oyster restoration projects. We measure growth and survival of oysters, along with biodiversity of oyster reefs. We also compare different restoration methods (such as larval seeding) on reef success.
Local citizens in Martin County have volunteers to grow oysters off their docks which are eventually planted at historic reef sites in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. To date, over 800,000 oysters have been restored to the St. Lucie River through this program.