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New 35-acre oyster reef being constructed in Bay St. Louis

Barge workers preparing to drop limestone in the Bay of St. Louis for a new 35-acre reef intended to protect and enhance a portion of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s oyster population (Photo courtesy of TNC Mississippi)

The Nature Conservancy in Mississippi is closing in on the completion of a 35-acre oyster reef in the Bay of St. Louis.

With restoration money from the BP oil spill of 2010, the reef is named after legendary coastal business leader Tony Trapani. Trapani, who passed away in 2022 at the age of 58, was an avid outdoorsman and conservationist who owned Trapani’s Eatery on the Beach in Bay St. Louis.

“The reef is a fantastic example of partnership between local, state, and federal groups with the same goal: protecting our Gulf and its resources,” U.S. Congressman Mike Ezell, who represents Mississippi’s coastal region, said.

The project is managed by Tom Mohrman, director of marine programs at TNC Mississippi. It includes a mound of limestone rocks constructed vertically one to two feet off the ocean floor. The strategic approach is to protect young oysters from freshwater flood events that have decimated coastal oyster populations in the past, according to a news release.

“One of our goals is to develop projects that support local economies by strengthening and enhancing the coastal habitat,” Mohrman said. “Health ecosystems support jobs, public health, a sense of place, as well as build habitat and biodiversity for communities to enjoy. Healthy ecosystems support healthy economies.”

The Tony Trapani Reef will be located south of the Wolf River and is expected to be completed within the next two weeks. The project is supported through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, the Mississippi Tidelands Fund, and the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund.

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