The Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) and its partners processed, cleaned and transported more than 60,000 bushels of oyster shells in 2010, using the shells to produce and plant more than 450 million baby oysters in 316 acres of the Chesapeake Bay.
Oyster shells are a limited resource and a key part of Maryland’s oyster restoration efforts, according to ORP Executive Director Stephan Abel. Reusing oyster shells provides habitat for baby oysters, which need to attach to another oyster’s hard shell to survive.
The oyster shells were collected in part through ORP’s new Oyster Shell Recycling Alliance, a first-of-its-kind network of restaurants, caterers, seafood wholesalers and citizen volunteers that donate and/or collect used oyster shells. In its first year, the alliance attracted more than 50 establishments from Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and other areas.
Oyster shells collected from alliance members are used by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Horn Point Lab Hatchery in Cambridge, Maryland. After letting the shells age for about one year, the hatchery adds the shells and oyster larvae to swimming pool-size tanks, where the larvae attach to the shells. The resulting baby oysters, called spat, are planted in designated areas in the Bay.
Through the Shell Recycling Alliance, ORP collected nearly 2 million oyster shells, which will result in more than 20 million oysters being planted back into the Chesapeake Bay over the next year.
“To meet our goals, it is critical that a greater number of shells are returned for reseeding and we hope this alliance will encourage increased participation in the coming year,” Abel said.
ORP works closely with UMCES, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other partners to restore and protect oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.
For more information about ORP and oyster shell recycling, visit www.oysterrecovery.org.