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Oyster castles: Protecting nature with nature

Oyster castles along the Choptank River are protecting shorelines and keeping the bay clean.

WASHINGTON — When you think of oysters do you think of tasty snacks or bay cleaning, shoreline protecting, habitat-creating mollusk? Probably not that second one, but oysters do serve a much bigger role than just a warm-up for your main course.   

How? Through oyster castles.

Oyster castles can be found all throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. So what exactly is an oyster castle? Amanda Poskaitis is a coastal expert with the National Wildlife Federation and she walked WUSA9 through what these cinder block stacks are used for.  

“It's really a concrete building block. So each one of these can be stacked on top of the other in different formations to build restoration projects,” Poskaitis explained. 

These oyster castles serve a dual purpose. They’re helping to reinforce the coastlines and they provide a place for different creatures to thrive.  

“We’re using these oyster castles to build on to existing infrastructure, which has become drowned due to climate change induced sea level rise,” Poskaitis noted. 

Poskaitis talked about how oyster castles not only provide a healthy space for oysters to grow, but other creatures love them as well.

“They create really complex dynamic 3-D habitat for oysters to grow on, but also many other species love it, like worms, ribbed mussels, all kinds of small fish and crabs that love to live on these oyster castle projects.”  

The stack of oyster castles that Poskaitis and her team had been growing since the fall was mature enough to be moved into their permanent location. They were loaded up into canoes and paddled out into a shallow cove of the Choptank River. 

Dr. Matthew Gray, an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, helped install these dynamic aquatic abodes. 

“These are oyster castles that were seeded last year when we finally got them on top of this breakwater at the mouth of the cove on the Choptank River," he said. "And it's finally time to put them in place and have them interlock like Lego so that they can resist incoming wave action.” 

One of the goals of oyster castles is to reduce beach line erosion. Once in place on the Choptank River, oyster castles will help reduce wave action which will, in turn, reduce beach erosion. 

“Coastal erosion is natural all over the Chesapeake Bay, but you’ve got infrastructure that you have to protect along all of our coastlines so creating more solutions to protect infrastructure that’s wildlife-friendly is really what the national wildlife federation is looking to do through this project,” said Poskaitis. 

Oyster castles are an innovative way to shield our shorelines and enhance our ecosystems.

Protecting nature with nature.

Meet the Virginia men helping Oysters in the Chesapeake Bay to make a big comeback

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