IT’S ALIVE – Recycled Oysters Find New Home

Oysters are a staple along the Louisiana coast, but thousands of tons of discarded shells end up in landfills each year.

Some of those shells have found a new home.

In 2014, CRCL launched its Oyster Shell Recycling program. CRCL partnered with restaurants in the Greater New Orleans area to collect their discarded shells in special bins instead of throwing them away.

So far, more than 3,000 tons of oyster shell have been collected from partner restaurants and that number continues to grow every month. The goal of the program is to return the shell to Louisiana waters in the form of oyster reefs, which grow to become living shorelines.

“A living shoreline is a dynamic barrier against erosion. This new reef will help slow land loss by lessening the effects of wave energy, filter water and, overtime, may even build land behind it,” said Dr. Deborah Visco Abibou, CRCL Restoration Programs Director. “It will soon become great habitat for fish, crabs, birds and, of course, oysters.”

Our first reef was completed in the fall of 2016 with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF) and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA). The reef is located in St. Bernard Parish’s Biloxi Marsh, stretches a half-mile and is already beginning to show signs of life. During a recent monitoring trip, baby oysters, know as spat, were found settling on the reef – a good sign for future oyster growth.

And that’s just the beginning. Thanks to a $250,000 grant from the NFWF, in partnership with Shell, we are building a second reef. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is also helping, in part, to fund the project.

We will begin construction on the new reef in 2019. This second reef will be built in Jefferson Parish’s Barataria Basin and will be constructed similarly to the earlier reef.

Gabion baskets will hold approximately 800 tons of recycled shells in place. Eventually, the shell will develop into a living shoreline.

“We have collected a mountain of oyster shell from New Orleans restaurants. With this support, CRCL will use the recycled shell—shell that would have ended up in landfills—to build another reef,” said CRCL Executive Director, Kimberly Reyher. “This is important because oyster reefs act as speed bumps for storms -- they provide an important line of defense for our city.”

These new reefs are proof that eating oysters can make a difference. So, once you shuck’em, don’t just chuck’em.

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