A county funded program to repopulate the Indian River Lagoon with oysters cared for by volunteer waterfront property owners is far exceeding expectations. Orientation classes are consistently getting 60 to 70 volunteers, more than double the classes registration size. There's even a waiting list.
"The response has been overwhelming," says Jody Palmer, Oyster Restoration Project Manager for Brevard Zoo.
Palmer says the recent deaths of hundreds of pelicans, manatees, and dolphins have been blamed on the poor water quality in the lagoon. The county says one full-grown oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day, and all these waterfront property owners are clamoring to help put the county's $150,000 worth of oysters into the lagoon.
"It's making people come together, in crisis, and people see that the lagoon needs help," said Palmer.
But these oyster gardeners can't clean up the lagoon on their own. The 156 mile long estuary is simply too large.
"What this is going to teach us is where they will survive," says Palmer. "Those are the areas we are going to want to go in and do more large-scale restoration."
The county will continue the oyster gardening classes until they get almost one million oysters in the water by the end of this year.