Family pets are loveable, devoted and for some Little Lagoon residents the newest member of their family may just help to filter thousands of gallons of water in the lagoon and later, Mobile Bay. …
Family pets are loveable, devoted and for some Little Lagoon residents the newest member of their family may just help to filter thousands of gallons of water in the lagoon and later, Mobile Bay.
The Little Lagoon Preservation Society is again hosting its oyster garden program for residents around the lagoon.
For many seaside gardeners in last year’s program, the itty bitty shelled creatures were a point of pride.
“A lot of our gardeners treat their oysters like they’re their family pets,” said Dennis Hatfield, society president. “They tend to them on a regular basis. They’re really proud to be growing oysters in the lagoon.”
And they should be proud of the outcome. In 2017, 23 of the 25 gardens produced oysters. In all Little Lagoon’s oyster gardens produced more than 25,000 oysters.
The society’s top goal is to maintain and improve the water quality of the lagoon and the marine life within.
“We have a very productive ecosystem and whenever we get a chance to do something that’s remediation we like to do it but it’s not that often that something comes along that you can say, this could really make a difference. This could really do some good.”
A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water and provide an essential habitat for smaller creatures. Hatfield said at harvest time last year each cage of oysters had thousands of baby crab, tiny shrimp, worms and fish living between the oysters.
For many oysters, Little Lagoon acts as an oyster nursery, a safe place for the tiny animals to grow and thrive until they are big enough to be moved to the reefs in Mobile Bay where scientists hope they will contribute to the re-population of oysters in those waters.
After the 2017 signups, the program was so popular that the society ran out of spaces.
“The demand for this program is better than anything I’ve ever seen,” Hatfield said. “People understood what the oysters could do for the environment.”
This year the program will expand from 20 oyster gardeners to 50. The increase is due largely to a generous grant from the city of Gulf Shores.
“We are really, really grateful to the city,” Hatfield said. “We love that they support us in this environmental initiative and that they are picking up the ball and running with it. It’s been a win-win for all involved.”
For Little Lagoon residents who are interested in oyster gardening, you must live on the lagoon and have a pier. Four oyster cages are suspended from the bottom of your pier and once a week you are responsible for checking the cage and making sure the water can circulate through.
It’s also helpful to shake the cages and make sure baby oysters are not growing into the mesh. Volunteers are needed to help distribute oysters in June and collect them again at the end of the growing season which often comes as early as November.
Interested in having a garden? Contact Hatfield at 942-2233. Deadline to sign up is April 1.