CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WECT) - The next time you sit down to eat oysters on the half shell, you might look at those shells a little differently.
Volunteers at Carolina Beach State Park put the final touches on a man-made oyster reef, a project that the North Carolina Coastal Federation has been working on for months.
"First of all we are helping with the erosion that exists along this park from boat wakes and storms and we are also providing new habitat for oyster larvae to settle on to create a new reef in this location," explained Tracy Skrabal, a coastal geologist.
Volunteers placed the remaining 400 bags, containing oyster shells and limestone marl, to help protect the eroding shoreline from storms and boat wakes.
The shells will also serve as a home for living oysters.
"We're providing it with a hard substrate and their favorite thing to attach to is another oyster so these are recycled oyster shells and then once the oysters attach to it, it will form a natural reef," Skrabal said.
Skrabal added that 50 to 60 percent of the oyster population has declined since 1900, making the new reef even more important. Oysters pull pollutants and sediments out of the water they live in.
"What we are trying to do is get back to some better levels of oysters so that we have cleaner estuaries and more oysters for all of us to eat but also for habitat," Skrabal said.
Most of the shells used in the project were recycled and the rest were purchased with a grant from the Grady White Foundation.