Coastal Protection and Enhancement Through Oyster Reef Bioengineering




Gagliano, Dr. Sherwood M., and Mark Gagliano

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Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission


Oyster reefs occur in coastal waters throughout the world and are common in may northern Gulf of Mexico bays. Reefs provide habitat for marine life and birds, provide shoreline protection, and produce shell that accumulates and forms shell beaches and islands. Oyster reefs can be initiated along the muddy shorelines of lakes and bays to form barriers against future erosion. Seed oysters placed in specially designed and fabricated Reefblksm units are utilized to establish the reefs. The growing shells fuse together and proliferate, producing a large calcium carbonate community. Secondary organisms in turn become encrusted on the firm oyster shell base.; The Reefblksm technique results in more rapid formation of reefs than through natural reef formation. The reefs enhance aquatic and avian habitat diversity, recreational and commercial fisheries productivity, and provide a natural management tool for combating coastal erosion. The process has potential applications anywhere oyster will grow, along the shores of lakes and bays, around islands, and along the banks of natural streams and canals. The Reefblksm system is patented, it was developed with the support of a team of experienced scientists, and it has been proven through successful installations in Louisiana coastal waters.; In 1995, Coastal Environments, Inc., in conjunction with the Lafourche Parish Government, was selected in a regional competition and awarded a grant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency=s Gulf of Mexico Program to construct an artificial oyster reef along the shore of Bay Rambo in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. The bioengineered reef system was monitored, and after having been in place for nine months was found to be completely intact. The oyster showed profuse growth, having extended through and around the mesh containers. New spat attachment and seed oyster growth exceeded expectations. An abundance of secondary organisms were found attached to and growing on the reef, as well as an increase in the shellfish and finfish in the vicinity of the reef.; Subsequent annual monitoring data has shown continued success. In addition to rapid biological growth and productivity, the reef has reduced wave induced shoreline erosion by providing a natural breakwater, and has retained substantial amounts of sediment in and behind the reef block system.


pg. 39


oyster reefs, Reefblk units