LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Researchers are partnering with local boaters to help restore the native Olympia oyster in Long Beach's Alamitos Bay.
"Oysters are important as a native species that we want to bring back," said Orange County Coastkeeper Marine Restoration Director Katie Nichols. "They provide a home and a nursery for a lot of other animals, in addition to improving water quality. That's really important in the face of rising sea levels."
The Costa Mesa-based nonprofit is teaming up with the Long Beach Yacht Club to bring back the threatened species that once thrived in Long Beach.
"Due to historical overharvesting, dredging, pollution, their habitats were really, really diminished. So they're almost gone in Southern California," Nichols said.
Nichols said that there is currently a sufficient amount of the native oysters in the Alamitos Bay that researchers can work to restore the species.
"If we build the right habitat, we'll have natural larvae coming in and settling," Nichols said.
Researchers assembled strings of Pacific oyster shells to serve as potential homes for the Olympia oysters.
"The hope is after putting these out in the water for about a month or two, we'll collect them back and we'll have a lot of juvenile native species on there," Nichols said.
Long Beach boaters and volunteers were able to attach 47 of the stringed shells on docks throughout the bay.
"This was a great win-win situation because we get little oyster cleaning mechanisms all over the marina and then they've got lots of places to develop the larvae for the Olympia oyster," said Long Beach Yacht Club member and volunteer Mike Gehring.
The young native oysters will then be re-homed in a mudflat restoration site in the Jack Dunster Marine Reserve.
"Long Beach is the aquatic capital of the world, so you better have clean water and a healthy marine environment, or we're going to lose our title," Gehring said.
The Orange County Coastkeeper is distributing the stringed shells on Saturday, Feb. 27. For more information, visit their website.