Latest On The Conservation Gateway

A well-managed and operational Conservation Gateway is in our future! Marketing, Conservation, and Science have partnered on a plan to rebuild the Gateway into the organization’s enterprise content management system (AEM), with a planned launch of a minimal viable product in late 2024. If you’re interested in learning more about the project, reach out to for more info!

Grant Awardee: The Nature Conservancy Alabama Chapter
Grant Amount: $2.96 Million
Habitats Restored/Protected: 1.6 miles of shellfish, 30 acres of salt marsh and sea grass
Location: Mobile Bay and Portersville Bay, Alabama
Project Period: July, 2009 through September 2012

A Vision for Project Success

Short-term goals: To restore and enhance marine habitat by creating submerged oyster breakwater reefs to protect shoreline from high wave energy and provide habitat for marine fish and invertebrates.

Long-term goals: To promote healthy fisheries that can sustain traditional livelihoods.

Project Summary: By creating over 1.6 miles of submerged breakwater reefs, the Alabama Coastal Restoration project is not only protecting shoreline from damaging wave energy, but it is also enhancing habitat for fish and invertebrates – species that are essential to healthy and sustainable coastal environments. Read about the project in more detail in the Project Final Report. (link to final report- in prep)

Using established oyster restoration techniques, the project created the building blocks for oyster breakwater reefs, protecting about 10,000 feet of shoreline. Unlike traditional methods of vertical bulkheads and other hardened structures, the methods used in this project offer a more natural approach to shoreline protection that, when fully grown, enhances critical habitats from many marine species.

Ecological Monitoring: TNC partnered with Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the University of South Alabama to collect and analyze pre-construction through post-construction data. Learn more in the project final monitoring report. (link to final monitoring report- in prep)

Restoration projects produce large outcomes that can leverage influence and build our credibility with partners.

In Alabama, wave erosion, storms and sea level rise are causing marshes to disappear, threatening the lives and livelihoods of the people of Alabama and threatening the existence of one of America’s most abundant fisheries. Two major hurricanes, Ivan and Katrina, caused major damage or complete destruction of estuarine and beach habitat, seafood processing plants and fishing boats. With the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster that followed, many coastal residents began to lose hope of ever returning to their fishing livelihoods and the recovery of the ecosystems that grow and support fish.

This project demonstrated that at large-scales, oyster reef structures can protect shoreline and rebuild marsh. Past attempts to protect shorelines from storms and heightened wave activity usually involved the construction of hardened structures like rock jetties, bulkheads and seawalls. Over time, experts have learned that these armored structures reflect wave energy back into the bay instead of absorbing or dampening their impact. Restoring shorelines with shellfish reef instead of bulkheads provides the restoration of multiple ecological functions including: protection and rebuilding of shoreline, creation of important near shore shallow-water habitat and water filtration. In fact, many shellfish have been labeled ‘ecosystem engineers’ in recognition of the multiple roles they play in shaping the environments in which they live. The important ecosystem functions of shellfish reefs have been fully described in Beck, et al., 2009 and yet have been identified as one of the most imperiled habitats on the planet.

Residents of coastal Alabama went “back to work” with the ARRA Oyster Reef living shoreline project including out of work fisherman.

In the coastal fishing town of Bayou La Batre, Alabama – where one-third of the population are Southeast Asian-Americans - the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill left thousands of local workers without jobs for almost a year. Because of social obstacles experienced by new Americans, like language barriers, opportunities to transition from fishing to oil spill clean-up and recovery had been difficult for many. TNC developed a workforce development program with Boat People SOS to help unemployed fishermen and people from the seafood industry to provide opportunities to return to work in coastal Alabama and develop the skills they need to aid in the future restoration of the Gulf of Mexico.

"Partnering with Boat People SOS is a natural step for our work in the Gulf of Mexico," says Coastal Projects Manager Jeff DeQuattro. "The cultural diversity of the people who rely on the Gulf is as varied as the biological diversity of the Gulf itself. By restoring the Gulf, we’re also helping to sustain the traditions and livelihoods of the people who rely on it."

Disclaimer: This web site was prepared by The Nature Conservancy under award [number] U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy or the U.S. Department of Commerce.