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our story

In 2009, Drs. Niels Lindquist and Joel Fodrie at the UNC Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) recruited David “Clammerhead” Cessna to work as a Commercial Fisherman Collaborator on research projects funded by the NC Sea Grant Program.  Between 2010 and 2015, Clammerhead worked with many IMS faculty, graduate students and technicians on multiple oyster-focused research projects, many examining problems with oyster community development on different types of reef foundation materials.  This research lead Lindquist and Clammerhead to invent a novel, biodegradable material – Oyster Catcher™ – to overcome problems and create new ways to promote oyster growth and restore/create estuarine habitats.  They co-founded Sandbar Oyster Company to use Oyster Catcher™ to improve the quality and productivity of coastal ecosystems they, and so many others, depend on and cherish.  Coastal degradation has tremendous negative economic implications – threatening lives, livelihoods and properties of coastal residents and estuarine ecosystems vital to resilient, sustainable fisheries. The integrity and ecological functions of coastlines worldwide are being progressively undermined by growing coastal populations, rising sea levels and intensifying storms.  Restoring oyster- and salt marsh-based ecosystems are key to enhancing many coastal fisheries and protecting coastal properties and communities. In addition to improvements in environmental quality and coastal resilience, SANDBAR’s products and services will underpin robust manufacturing and deployment workforces, as the company becomes a leader offering nature-based solutions for restoring critical estuarine habitats and protecting coastal populations from the devastating impacts of shoreline erosion and flooding.



The oyster catcher™ substratE

For living shoreline applications and oyster habitat restoration, Oyster Catcher™ products offer features and benefits not available from commonly used (i) cast cement/concrete products, (ii) oyster shells, loose or contained in plastic mesh bags, and (iii) rock and crushed concrete.


Oyster Catcher™ Features and Benefits

Biodegradable – leaves only oysters behind as Oyster Catcher™ fades away; no negative legacy effects that can occur with long-lasting or permanent reef materials; no plastics are used in reef construction.

Non-Carbonate – resistant to carbonate bioeroders that can do substantial harm to oysters.

Lightweight – ease of handling, lower transportation costs, resistance to sinking in soft sediments & volunteer friendly.

Small Modular Elements – reef design versatility & volunteer friendly.

Open Reef Frameworks – creates open 3-dimensional frameworks that greatly increase surface area for oyster attachment and growth and thus increased oyster density (as oppose to materials, such as oyster shell or rock that create a solid mounded foundation with only it’s exposed surface area available for oyster attachment); salt marsh plants able to growth through the oyster reef framework.

Multiple Anchoring Points – Oyster Catcher™ reefs are constructed with multiple Oyster Catcher™-based anchoring elements inserted into the sediment, thereby providing exceptional positional resilience – lateral and vertical in soft sediments and in high energy environments.

Elevation of Reef Frameworks – positioning the 3-dimensional reef framework on the upright anchoring elements above the bottom increases oyster community vigor.

Ease of Pre-Seeding with Oysters – jump start oyster reef communities by using Oyster Catcher™ elements pre-seeded with spat.  Pre-seeding can be accomplished in Nature with natural spat set or in hatcheries.  With periodic air drying, or by keeping newly seeded elements in intertidal environments allow the vast majority of the spat to survive and grow quickly.  Once the juvenile oysters grow to a larger, more protected size, the oyster-coated elements can be transferred to reef construction/rehabilitation sites.





Niels Lindquist

Niels grew up in Gainesville, Florida, where he enjoyed scuba diving in North Florida’s springs, surfing along the east Florida coast and fishing Florida’s Gulf coast at Cedar Key.  After graduating high school in 1977, Niels worked as a carpenter to earn money to fund surfing expeditions to the Bahamas, central America, the South Pacific and Australia.  In 1979, Niels started his studies at the University of Florida, receiving his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1983.  He then conducted Ph.D. research in natural products chemistry and chemical ecology at the University of California at San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  He continued marine chemical ecology research as a post-doctoral associate and then faculty member at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) in Morehead City, North Carolina.  For many years, Lindquist studied coral reefs, but in 2010, his research interests turned to North Carolina’s oysters.

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David "clammerhead" cessna

David grew up in his family’s ancestral region of Carteret County, North Carolina.  Beginning at the ripe old age of six, David began learning firsthand from his grandfather the many wonders of commercial fishing and mysteries surrounding shellfish and shellfish harvesting.  Despite warnings from his grandfather to run away from commercial fishing as a career, David’s early experiences drew him more deeply to it.  Over the next four decades, his adventures and endeavors in commercial fishing gave David extensive experiential knowledge of shellfish, and the interesting nickname, "Clammerhead".  Clammerhead worked primarily with shellfish, both in the wild harvest industry and running aquaculture leases for himself and other growers.