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Manatee County aims to improve water quality through oyster restoration projects

MANATEE COUNTY – Over the next few years, Manatee County will embark on a large-scale oyster restoration project in the Manatee River. The hope is to enhance water quality long term.

The county wants to get the community involved in the process. Through partnerships with Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, and START or Solutions to Avoid Red Tide, they’re able to help get oyster shells from your dinner plate back into the water to serve a new purpose as a “vertical oyster garden.”

After oyster shells go through a six to eight-month quarantine period at Robinson Preserve, volunteers will assemble the shells into vertical oyster gardens.

“They are built by volunteers. We take shells and just stack them along a stainless steel wire,” said Manatee County environmental specialist Shaun Swartz. “The idea is that we attach this under docks and over time, marine life will aggregate on these vertical oyster gardens.”

Swarts showed 8 On Your Side how the string of oyster shells transforms once underwater for an extended period of time, becoming home to crabs, worms, snails, and more oysters.