Thousands of People Contribute to Building Louisiana’s Newest Oyster Reef

It took thousands of people eating mounds of oysters for CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program to have enough recycled oyster shell to construct its first oyster reef. Recently, CRCL, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, completed its first half-mile of oyster reef using 1.7 million pounds of oyster shell collected from New Orleans restaurants. 

The program began in June 2014 with 12 participating restaurants in the New Orleans Area. Within a year, it grew to become the largest oyster recycling program in the nation. Now with 26 participating restaurants, the program has saved more than 5 million pounds of oyster shell from ending up in Louisiana landfills.

“This has been an amazing journey for us. That so many restaurants were eager to participate in an unproven program was inspiring. Together we collected a mountain of shell. Now, we’ve put it to great use.”  said CRCL Executive Director, Kimberly Davis Reyher. “1.7 million pounds of shell that was destined for the landfill will instead help to restore our coast and protect our city.”

The reef was constructed in Biloxi Marsh (St. Bernard Parish), specifically along the shore of Lake Athanasio. This site was selected because it is experiencing particularly high rates of shoreline erosion due to the area’s high wave action. The reef was constructed through a partnership with TNC and funded by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.The reef was designed by ORA Estuaries and TNC, and constructed by LeBlanc Marine, LLC. It consists of 434 Gabion baskets, each filled with 4,000 pounds of reclaimed oyster shell. The baskets were partially filled by 300+ volunteers at our Buras storage facility, which is being loaned to CRCL through a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.


This is just the first of many planned projects for CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program. While this was a pilot program, we are planning to continue the program into 2017 and beyond.  To make the program sustainable into the future, CRCL’s partner restaurants will now help defray a portion of the cost of shell collection, but that is only a fraction of the money needed.  So, we are also looking for Community Sponsors to help ensure that we are able to return as many oyster shells as possible back to Louisiana waters.“The reef is designed to reduce the effects of wave action along the shoreline,” said Deborah Visco Abibou, CRCL Habitat Restoration Director. “But it has also been constructed with three gaps to allow the free flow of water, fish and other wildlife. This will protect the shoreline, create great habitat for fish and other species, including oysters, and over time may help build land behind it.”

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