An oyster toadfish peeks through formations at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, off the coast of Savannah, Ga. Credit: David J. Phillip / AP

PHIPPSBURG, Maine — A group wants to create an oyster reef off the coast of Phippsburg to improve water quality, protect a shoreline from storm surges and act as a habitat for other smaller shellfish.

The oyster reef is part of the fight against “the immense amount of change” that’s taking place because of climate change in waters off the Maine coast, Marissa McMahan, a senior fisheries scientist at Manomet, a Brunswick-based conservation nonprofit, told the Times Record.

The project is the continuation of a two-year pilot program the Nature Conservancy began in 2017.

The conservatory’s goal was to see if an oyster reef could be grown on the ocean floor in the Gulf of Maine, which is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s large bodies of saltwater, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Phippsburg group is growing oysters in bags that float on the surface of the water. They’ll eventually be released into the ocean with a hope that they’ll attach to one another and grow as a vertical structure.

Oysters benefit the environment because they filter algae, creating clearer, cleaner water that can support underwater grasses used for habitat by crabs, scallops and fish.

They also can break up waves and reduce shore erosion.

“We need to create these very resilient ecosystems that can support abundant species that potentially be commercial resources,” McMahan said. “Creating thriving habitats will only be beneficial to commercial populations.”