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Oyster Reef Restoration Through the Use of Non-shell Cultch Material in the Estarine Areas of the Altamaha River, GA

Restoration of oysters along southeastern coasts is important for economic and ecological reasons. Oysters enhance waterquality. Their reefs buffer wave action adjacent to marshes, and they are harvested and marketed by commercial fishermen.

Partner(s): The Nature Conservancy, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service

Bellville Boat Ramp Project - McIntosh
County, Georgia

Description of Site:

  • More than one area close to Sapelo Island in the Altamaha River were chosen for this project.
  • The first site is approximately 0.1 acre at the Bellville Boat Ramp. A second site in the Altamaha Estuary near an emerging island extends about 0.5 acres.


  • Oyster reef restoration has been hampered in the region by the limited availability of oyster shells. In addition, vertical relief is necessary for successful reef formation to avoid sedimentation from soft and churning bottoms.


Restoration site before installation of cultch.
  • Construct three types of artificial cultch: Bundles of oak limbs wrapped with agricultural fencing, cement-coated spat sticks, and concrete-based fish attracting devices imbedded with spat sticks and oyster shells, allowing for vertical placement to encourage reef formation.
  • Stake artificial cultch down in parallel rows, and place oyster shell bags on a firm substrate along an eroding vegetative edge adjacent to the boat ramp.
  • Utilize volunteers to involve community in restoration effort.
  • Goal is to stabilize the shoreline with materials suitable for larval oyster settlement. It is hoped that the area between the oyster reefs and the marsh will fill with sediment and eventually, with marsh grass.
Volunteers place artificial cultch along shore.

Monitoring has been conducted since the project’s inception. Reef is stable and thriving, improving habitat and supporting larvae and many juvenile recrea tional fish species.

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