Those attending Oysterfest Friday and Saturday might have seen a new addition to the festival activities. Russel Cole and other festival officials have worked the past several months with Belaire Environmental, Inc. (BEI), to initiate shell collection at Oysterfest for the purpose of restoration and creation of oyster reefs. The local firm, which planned, permitted, and monitored the Little Bay reef project, will use the shell to establish new small oyster reefs in local bays.
Charlie Belaire, owner of BEI, contacted Cole after Cole’s father, “Googles” Cole, Belaire’s wife Sandy (co-founder of BEI), and local fishing guide James Fox passed away in 2019.
“All of these people held a special place in my heart so I wanted to do something that would commemorate them,” said Belaire. “Sandy and I had talked for years about this concept, but just never got around to implementing it.
“Thanks to Russel, and the Oysterfest committee, we were able to get the collection started this year.”
BEI has also established collection of shells from oysters served at The Boiling Pot restaurant.
Preliminary discussions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and BEI have evaluated the preferred permitting process for establishing small reefs with the shell. BEI has also worked with Josh and David Kaspar, homeowners on Fulton Beach Road, to obtain preliminary approval for constructing the first reef adjacent to the Kaspar’s pier on the Aransas Bay shoreline.
Belaire anticipates this initial reef will be a demonstration project that will serve as a model for establishing many similar reefs in area bays.
Returning the oyster shells to local bays for establishment of shoreline oyster reefs will provide many benefits, including shoreline protection, fishery feeding, recreational fishing, and water quality improvement.