The indigenous Pointe-au-Chien tribe used oyster shells to help them create a living shoreline as a defense mechanism against hurricanes wave action to protect culturally significant sites.
The local Pointe-au-Chien tribe has collected over 3.5 million kilograms of oyster shells, which are a by product of the local restaurant industry, and have used them to create artificial oyster reefs to protect the shoreline from coastal erosion. The discarded shells are picked up from local restaurants daily, undergo a 6th month sterilization process, and then are fashioned into artificial reefs along the local shoreline. The sterile shells are ideal habitat for oyster larvae and attract them to establish on the structure and furthering the natural regeneration of the reef.
Overview of context and outcomes:
Louisiana is a state which experiences frequent hurricanes and is at high risk for coastal erosion and sea level rise. Since the 1930s the state has already lost 4,700 square kilometres of land area and it is expected to loose even more than that over the next half century. This has jeopardized important cultural burial mounds for the Pointe-au-Chien who have lead this intervention to help preserve their heritage.
The implementation of the artificial reef has left to a reduced risk of coastal erosion for the community. The oyster reef helps limit the power of waves and has withstood several hurricanes which are of extreme concern within the gulf region. this is especially important in the face of sea level rise and more intense Atlantic hurricane seasons due to climate change.
The implementation of the oyster shell reefs has reportedly lead to the recruitment of wild oyster larvae on the structures. This in turn is said to have positively increased the species diversity by supporting more fish and aquatic plant species while also improving habitat quality through the oysters filtering the water.
The Pointe-au-Chien has many members who work as fishermen and make a living off the water so the reported improvements in fish stocks and water quality are likely to improve these outcomes. The intervention was also key to ensuring the protection of indigenous cultural sites of high importance to the community.
This project is governed by the Pointe au Chien Tribe and implemented through a network of tribal members.
This project was funded by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Regional Coastal Resilience Grants program to finance the tribes efforts in coastal restoration.
Local NGOs have supported the tribe in conducting environmental assessments on the impacts of the artificial reef implementation.
No information yet available on tradeoffs and limitations.