NORFOLK--The Chesapeake Bay Foundation lowered 25 concrete oyster reef balls seeded with live baby oysters into the water along the Lafayette River shoreline near the Virginia Zoo Tuesday.
The effort is part of a plan announced in 2011 by the foundation, the Elizabeth River Project and more than 100 community partners to bring the Lafayette River back to health.
The dome-shaped concrete structures provide a surface on which swimming oyster larvae can attach.
They also provide an alternative substrate in Virginia streams and rivers, many of which no longer have the hard surfaces oysters need.
Chesapeake gold is a term used to describe oysters, which were once so plentiful they played a central role in the regional economy.
Harvest of oysters has been banned on the Lafayette since the 1920s, due to contamination associated with industrial activities and storm water runoff.
"Conservation is one of our core missions, and the Virginia Zoo is involved in many conservation efforts at home and abroad," said Greg Bockheim, the Zoo's executive director. "The oyster reef along the Zoo shoreline is a double win for us as it helps restore the natural habitat and the oysters filter water runoff, improving water quality."
The oyster restoration initiative is possible due to funding provided by Restore America's Estuaries and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The reefs are funded by the Rotary Club of Norfolk and constructed by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.