Restoring Gulf Oyster Reefs


Opportunities for Innovation

Approximately 50-89 percent of all oyster reefs have disappeared from the Gulf of Mexico during the last 130 years. Oyster reefs provide habitat for numerous species of fishes and mobile crustaceans, all of which are a part of a food web that supports a $2.4 billion fishing industry and its 200,000 jobs. Oysters are natural water purifiers and have the ability to filter up to 1.5 gallons of water an hour, reducing the need for expensive wastewater treatment plants.

Stephen Addington, co-owner of Gulf Coast Aggregates: "Investments in oyster reefs help small businesses like ours create jobs, build innovative products and support our local economy. Restoration is not only good for small businesses, it is vital for the economy here in the panhandle – now and in the future."

Oyster reef restoration currently provides jobs to 445 business locations in 22 states. Established businesses – large and small – in the extractive industries, marine construction and shipping are recognizing oyster reef restoration as an opportunity to diversify beyond shrinking existing client bases and to use existing resources to increase revenues and employment.

Here are a few different designs for oyster restoration projects:

Designs for restoring oyster reefs

On the left are contained clutch designs. On the right are precast concrete designs. Sources (clockwise from upper left): Erika Nortemann on TNC website; Dennis Barkemeyer; ReefBall; ReefBall; NPCA; NPCA; Reefblk; Beth Maynor Young on TNC website

The figure below shows what types of businesses are involved in the different steps of creating or restoring an oyster reef.

How an oyster reef restoration project cycle engages firms

How an oyster reef restoration project cycle engages firms. Red boxes denote materials firms. Blue boxes denote service firms. Gray boxes denote transport firms. Source: CGGC based on CWPPRA completion reports (CWPPRA, 2011b) and industry interviews.

Visit our interactive map to see where businesses connected to oyster reef restoration are located.

The above data is the product of surveys conducted by Datu Research LLC and the Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness. Restoring Gulf Oyster Reefs: Opportunities for Innovation.