Vertical oyster garden workshop will help to clean Gulfport waters
Tampa Bay Watch (TBW), a non-profit located in Tierra Verde, is teaming up with a grassroots group of concerned citizens in Gulfport, which means free vertical oyster gardens, or VOGs, will soon be installed on docks at the Municipal Marina and at private residences.
Each VOG encourages 50 to 100 juvenile oysters to attach where they can grow to adulthood. When each oyster matures to a maximum of about 70 to 80 millimeters in size, it can filter from one to five gallons of salt water per hour, said Eric Plage, an environmental specialist with TBW.
Oysters are filter feeders, he said. While filtering water for their food like algae, they also filter out contaminants such as storm drain runoff along with pesticides, fertilizers, nutrients and the algae that feed red tide blooms.
“They are incredibly hardy,” he said. “The filtering they do to clean the water doesn’t kill them or make them sick. They can actually improve water quality in an area.”
A $5,000 mini grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program is funding the local VOG project.
The workshop’s main goals are to raise community awareness about the environment among participants to make them “stewards of the bay” and to create about 1,000 VOGs that will help to contribute to cleaner water that borders Gulfport, said Plage.