As much as Floridians love oysters, local waterways love them even more. And on Dec. 4, McKay Bay got a full serving of ecosystem-enhancing oyster shells – 28 tons’ worth – thanks to Tampa Bay Watch, Tampa Electric’s Environmental, Health & Safety team and other volunteers.
Stan Kroh, manager of Land and Stewardship Programs with Environmental, Health & Safety, coordinated TECO’s participation – and even recruited volunteers from the Florida Conservation and Technology Center – for a morning of shoveling shells by the thousands into net bags. The volunteers placed the bags on boats and then, along a 3,000-foot-long stretch not far from the shoreline in McKay Bay, they emptied the shells bound in the netting into the water to build a new reef.
“It’s hard to think a small group can make a much bigger impact than what this team of volunteers did today,” Kroh said. “As young oysters attach to the reef and grow, it will provide a home for marine life and protect against shoreline erosion by breaking the force of the water.”
He added, “The biggest single benefit, however, may be the fact that a single mature oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. Now multiply that by many thousands of oysters and think about the difference this will make.”
Melanie Grillone, an environmental specialist with Tampa Bay Watch, said people who are interested in enhancing the health of the bay can find many opportunities on the Tampa Bay Watch website – and that the combined effort of many people is paying off.
“The amount of sea grass in Tampa Bay is back to about where it was in the 1950s, which is incredible,” she said. “Each person can make a difference – whether it’s living a more sustainable lifestyle, preventing fertilizer you use from seeping into local waterways, or other things.”
Peter Clark, president of Tampa Bay Watch, praised the volunteers for TECO team member’s work, part of a three-day effort overseen by the organization he leads.
“The value of corporate involvement in projects like this allows participating companies to take an active role in restoring the bay while it gives us the people power we need to take on this challenge,” Clark said.
Kroh said it’s a challenge TECO is proud to accept.
“We want future generations to find a healthy bay teeming with healthy marine life, and today’s effort was a great step toward that goal,” he said. “That’s the idea behind the Florida Conservation and Technology Center and Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center. But whether backed by an organization like TECO or working as individuals, we can all realize the value of cleaner water and a healthier bay – and as today showed, we can have a great time helping that happen.”