Students build reef balls

Middle school students mix and pour concrete into the reef ball mold. Oysters attach themselves to the concrete and form oyster reefs that provide underwater habitat.

CAMBRIDGE — ShoreRivers and Coastal Conservation Association Maryland are seeking volunteers of all ages to help construct oyster reef balls that will be placed in the Choptank River to create underwater habitat.

CCA Maryland is a nonprofit organization that advocates for, conserves, and educates communities about Maryland’s marine resources. ShoreRivers, a nonprofit organization that restores and protects Eastern Shore waterways, is partnering with CCA Maryland as part of the Living Reef Action Campaign. The goals of the campaign are to create and restore oyster reef habitat while engaging local communities in education about oyster reefs.

Reef balls are hollow, concrete domes pocketed with holes. When oysters attach themselves to the reef balls and begin to grow, they create a 3D structure that we call a reef. Oyster reefs are beneficial habitat to many other animals in local waterways, especially fish that hide and hunt using the hollow structure.

Increasing oyster habitat and populations in our waterways has additional benefits. Oysters are filter feeders which means they clean the water as they eat. The oyster reef balls constructed with ShoreRivers and CCA will be placed in the Choptank River beneath the popular Bill Burton Fishing Pier, providing more habitat and, in turn, attracting larger fish for anglers.

If you’d like to contribute to this effort to improve oyster habitat, please volunteer for a reef ball build. Each build is a two-morning event. The first morning is spent constructing the mold and filling it with concrete. During the second morning, the reef ball is unmolded and unveiled.

Reef ball builds will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 7 and 8 at the Easton Point Marina, 975 Port Street, Easton. Additional builds will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 19 and 20 and Sept. 25 and 26 at Sailwinds Park in Cambridge.

Volunteers are welcome to come for one or both days of the build. There are jobs for all ages. Sign up to volunteer or get more information from ShoreRivers’ Community Engagement Coordinator Amy Narimatsu at anarimatsu@shorerivers.org or call 410-810-7556, ext. 253.

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