By Zhipeng Wang and Shengwei Zeng of Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper
In December 2015, Sirui Wang, Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper and long-time environmental advocate, initiated a discussion on how to solve ocean pollution with his colleagues Jing Zhu, Wenting Qiu and Shengwei Zeng. Utilizing their collective knowledge, they found that oyster reefs play a great role in water purification, maintaining marine biodiversity, protecting shoreline by absorbing the impact from waves, and many other important services.
The group went to Mr. Wen Bo to learn more. As an experienced environmental worker, then a Global Greengrants Fund (GGF) consultant, Mr. Bo described how many years ago there were abundant oyster reefs along the coastline of Dalian, a major city and seaport in Liaoning Province, China. Unfortunately, the number of reefs decreased sharply due to artificial exploitation and marine environment deterioration in the last decade. Mr. Wang realized that repairing the oyster reef in Dalian was of critical importance and would be advantageous to everyone in the region. Upon this realization, the Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper team switched their focus from managing coastal pollution in Dalian to restoring oyster reefs along the Liaodong Peninsula.
In April 2016, after many months of field investigation and studying oyster reef restoration cases at home and abroad, Mr. Wang, with partners Wang Zhipeng and Xu Weiwei, launched the Oyster Reef Restoration Project in Liaodong Peninsula with the goal of increasing coastal water clarity. The project received widespread approval, with supporters including was supported by Sun Kang, professor of Liaoning Normal University, and Sun Na, founder of Dalian No Shark Fin Foundation.
By May 2017, in addition to investigating oyster’s distribution on neritic rocks suitable for oyster growth, Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper had taken their studies to the next level and had begun conducting oyster reef restoration experiments in three locations. Their three sites included Heidao Island, Quanshui Wetlands and Heishijiao.
Xingshutun, a town off the coast of Heidao Island, had water pollution in the sea between the two mainlands caused by factory growth. Xingshutun has not yet been exploited by tourism, which made it a good location to establish an experiment. Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper began its pilot program back in October 2015. The researchers threw oyster spat, otherwise known as baby oysters, into the Heidao coastline to attempt to regrow the population there. This change was successful and not only improved water quality but brought economic opportunity to the locals by providing job opportunities for local fishermen and oyster distributors.
Part two of their experiment took place at Quanshui Wetlands, which at one point in time was a paradise for seabirds. But as the state of its environment worsened, the fantastic scenery and habitats disappeared. To attempt to remedy this, Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper put oyster shucks into bags and created man-made oyster reefs to be placed in circles along the coastline. After several months, they saw that the water quality inside the circle had improved – it was now better than that of the surrounding waters. To raise awareness of the ongoing experiment and its success, Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper placed a sign near the wetlands. To their delight, the government paid attention to the project and prepared to establish a wetlands park and sewage treatment plant for Quanshui Wetlands.
Currently, Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper is working with relevant government departments, the Dalian Nature Museum and domestic and international organizations to discuss additional methods of repairing the oyster reef. The project is moving forward steadily thanks to the work of Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper. This project will make a contribution to coastal protection and the ecosystem of the inshore sea area of Dalian and Liaodong Peninsula, as well as bring job opportunities to the locals, boosting the development of Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper’s local work. Everyone on the Black Reef Coast Waterkeeper’s team looks forward to, and is hard at work creating, a better ocean environment for all.