The Oyster Recovery Partnership has launched Maryland’s first Oyster Shell Recycling Alliance, which will collect used oyster and clam shells from restaurants for oyster reef restoration projects in the Chesapeake Bay.
Local oyster shuckers, watermen and Oyster Recovery Partnership staff will pick up oyster shells from 20 restaurants, catering companies and seafood wholesalers in Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
The shells will go to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Horn Point Laboratory on the Eastern Shore, which only uses recycled shells for its oyster restoration efforts. The lab raises baby oysters, which need shells to grow on, for oyster reef restoration projects in the Bay.
Once the baby oysters -- called spat -- attach to the recycled shells, they are added to existing oyster reefs in the Bay and its rivers. These new oysters and shells help oyster reefs grow and provide more habitat for other reef-dwelling creatures.
"This initiative is not only the first of its kind in Maryland, it is special because it all began with volunteers from the oyster shucking community who care deeply about our Bay," said Stephan Abel, executive director of the Oyster Recovery Partnership.
A pilot program conducted over the past 18 months collected more than 3,000 bushels (about 1.5 million shells) from local catering companies and on-call pickups. As a result of this initiative, the program anticipates planting approximately 15 million new oysters in the Bay.
For a list of participating partners and more information, visit www.oysterrecovery.org.