The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has completed the construction of 25 acres oyster reefs in Calcasieu Lake (East Side) to increase oyster habitat and fisheries production. The construction process, known as cultch planting, is a proven habitat improvement technique used by LDWF.
This project is part of the Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (DARP/EA) for the 2006 Calcasieu River Oil Spill. The primary goal of this project was to create a productive oyster reef on public oyster areas to compensate for injuries to water column organisms from this Incident.
Since 1917, LDWF has placed over 1.5 million cubic yards of cultch material on nearly 30,000 acres with positive results. The 2023 Calcasieu Lake project placed approximately 17,500 tons of crushed limestone onto the Calcasieu Lake Public Oyster Areas to create a total of 25 acres of artificial oyster reef. Planting design included a 2” base layer of material and a grid pattern of 10” high, elevated rows spaced approximately seventy-five feet apart in order to increase reef height, minimizing the chances of sedimentation and hypoxia-induced mortality.
Oyster populations provide many important benefits to the Calcasieu Lake estuary. When placed in suitable oyster habitat, the cultch material provides a substrate for free-floating oyster larvae to attach and grow, resulting in a mature, productive oyster reef. Potential long-term benefits from increasing available cultch material include increased oyster production and oyster population connectivity, resilience, and stability. Healthy, interconnected oyster populations form reefs that provide the hard substrate needed for oyster larvae to settle, grow, and sustain the population. In addition to providing habitat for oysters, these reefs serve as a habitat for various marine organisms, from small invertebrates to large recreationally and commercially important species. Furthermore, oyster reefs provide structural integrity, improve water quality, and potentially reduce coastal erosion.
The cultch plant will be closed to recreational and commercial oyster harvest for at least two years to allow time for oyster recruitment and growth. LDWF will monitor the productivity of the plant through regularly scheduled sampling events to assess project performance and help guide corrective actions, if any, to achieve the project’s goals and objectives.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana’s abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.la.gov. To receive LDWF email alerts, signup at http://www.wlf.la.gov/signup.