The Effectiveness in Attracting Oyster Spat on PVC versus Bamboo Stakes for Reef Restoration in the North Edisto River

Progress report for FS23-350

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Barrier Island Oyster Co.
Region: Southern
State: South Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Alison Pierce
Barrier Island Oyster Co.
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Project Information


We hope to achieve the following goals by determining which substrate is best suited for attracting larval oysters:

1) Engage shellfish farmers and harvesters in efforts to conserve, manage, and protect our marine resources by planting enough stakes to give a home to 3,000,000 wild larval oysters.

2) Support a diverse workforce and create economic opportunities for people of diverse and/or underrepresented backgrounds. This project will help to restore commercial shellfish beds in and around our rural community, where the poverty rate is 22% and 54% of the population are African American or Hispanic according to the included data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

3) Increase the environmental benefits of shellfish farms (ecosystem service provision) by expanding the existing marsh area in our watershed and filtering up to 150,000,000 gallons of water per day once the oysters on these new reefs grow to full size. By leveraging our resources and experience as oyster farmers to help restore wild oyster populations on State Shellfish Grounds in this low income part of South Carolina we will improve the local ecology and economy, both of which rely heavily on healthy waterways. At the same time, we are helping to mitigate the negative impacts of population growth and over-development, while increasing our community's resilience to the effects of Climate Change. 

    We will accomplish the desired outcomes by establishing new hard substrate that will provide a landing place for wild oyster larvae and become the foundation of new reefs. These reefs will then provide habitat for over 120 species of fish and other marine life, as well as filtering the water in which they live. Ultimately, the new reefs will allow for the accumulation of sediment along the shoreline, which will become home to new Spartina grass and expand the marsh itself. This expanded marsh area will help to reduce erosion and lessen the impact of coastal flooding events by absorbing excess water, while also capturing carbon and removing it from the atmosphere.

SARE Grant Proposal - Bamboo Stakes Image

Project Objectives:

    We propose to plant bamboo and PVC stakes in State Shellfish Grounds that have continually been closed due to over-harvest: S161, S182, and S187, as well as in other areas managed directly by Barrier Island Oyster Company, for the purpose of restoring the wild reefs to their historic economic value and environmental impact.

State Shellfish Grounds Site Map     

    With this project we will place 5,000 bamboo stakes and 5,000 PVC stakes in and around oyster beds at five test sites in the North Edisto River watershed to provide substrate for larval oysters to land and form new reefs. Each test site will receive 500 of each stake type in year one and 500 more in year two. Comparing growth between two years will help account for any fluctuating variables in weather conditions or resources that may impact oyster growth and reproduction rates.

    These stakes will be strategically deployed in and around State Shellfish Grounds at the low tide line by members of our crew and volunteers organized by Toadfish. We will deploy the stakes in April of 2023 and 2024. This will give them time to develop a barnacle set prior to the annual Spring oyster spawn so the larval spat has a place to land. Stakes will be monitored, monthly. Taking pictures of each site and digitally tracking recruitment volumes. 

Both Dr. Richards and Sea Grant will help our team with data analysis and all of our partners will provide assistance in sharing our publication on our results. 

We will gauge success of this project in the following ways:

1) Deployment of all 10,000 stakes into the waterway.

2) Visual verification of oyster accumulation on stakes within 12 months, with monthly check-ins.

3) Obtaining significant data identifying the effectiveness of PVC vs bamboo stakes as oyster reef substrate. 

4) Estimated total of 3,000,000 oysters set on our stakes within 24 months.

5) Estimated 150,000,000 gallons of water being filtered per day at full size.

Steve Richards LOS BIO SARE Grant_signed

Support Letter Barrier Island SARE

Toadfish LOS BIO SARE Grant_Signed


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Casey Davidson
  • Sarah Pedigo (Researcher)
  • Steven Richards (Researcher)


Materials and methods:

We have yet to start the research, but are hoping to plant stakes this spring 2024. 

Research results and discussion:

We have yet to start the research, but are hoping to plant stakes this spring 2024.

Participation Summary
1 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

1 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

 For outreach, we will provide an educational flier that will be shared with other oyster farmers within the South Carolina Shellfish Growers Association, Oyster South, and with Sea Grant. We will also provide photos and digital documentation through our website and social media outlets, that will be managed by our Immersive Marketing Specialist.

Learning Outcomes

1 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Spat Collection

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

We will begin project in Spring 2024 with more results by next spring. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.