Recycled Oyster Shells and ‘Oyster Castles’ Create Living Shoreline Protection Along Delaware Bay


Virtual 360-degree tour showcases Rutgers partnership on artificial reef built in New Jersey.

Using recycled oyster and clam shells, a Rutgers University team partnered with The Nature Conservancy, The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create a living artificial reef along Delaware Bay to protect the shoreline from storm damage.

These oyster castles – essentially modified concrete blocks that become living reefs as oyster larvae attach to them and grow – can reduce the impacts of future storms, provide habitat for wildlife and improve water quality.

Creating a living shoreline with wetland plants, natural structures and shellfish breakwaters to absorb wave energy and reduce erosion can help protect coastal areas from regular flooding and storm damage.

“One of the main benefits of doing this is that you maintain the connection between the aquatic environment and the terrestrial environment,” said Professor David Bushek, director of Rutgers’ Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory in Port Norris, New Jersey. “There’s an interface where those two things meet, and that interface allows life and living processes to move between water and land.”

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Image via Jenny Paterno Shinn, Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory