Every day, thousands of oysters are devoured in Florida seafood restaurants. Those shells are then discarded and added to our ever-growing landfills. Oyster recycling programs are popping up all over the state to recycle oyster/scallop/clam shells back into the environment to create new habitats and restore damaged oyster reefs and living shorelines. By ordering a dozen at one of the participating restaurants, you’re doing your part to advance habitat restoration along the coasts of Florida.
Shuck and Share: Oyster Recycling is just one component of the Halls River Alliance ongoing efforts to restore shorelines in the area. The Shuck and Share recycling project is a collaboration between the Halls River Alliance and several local seafood restaurants. Shucked oyster shells from the restaurants are converted into new reef-building materials through volunteer efforts. The shells will be kept out of the landfill and recycled back into the natural system.
The oyster bags and mats, created by volunteers, will be placed to help stabilize shorelines and provide a foundation for oyster communities to rebuild. The mats or bags provide a place for tiny floating oysters, or spat, to settle and grow, and the cumulative weight of the new oyster growth helps build and strengthen the reef.
Volunteers are the heart and soul of oyster recycling operations in Florida. Many of the organizations rely heavily on volunteers to pick up shells from participating restaurants, create oyster restoration materials, and deploy the final product into an oyster reef, break water, or living shoreline.
Support Our Local Restaurants That Support The Shuck And Share Recycling Program
Oysters start out as free floating larvae called “spat”. These spat float around in the water column looking for somewhere hard to settle on using a rudimentary eyespot. Once the oyster larva settles onto a hard substrate it begins to grow, however, if the oyster spat does not find a hard surface to settle on, it perishes.
Oysters have the ability to land on anything hard; dock pilings, concrete sea walls, tree trunks…but they prefer to land on other oysters as it is a good indicator that there is enough food and protection in the surrounding habitat to create a successful oyster reef.
Oyster beds provide habitat, food, and protection for a numerous species of animals that live in and around them, making them an important keystone species in Florida’s thriving marine ecosystem. Oysters are also known as ecosystem engineers because of their ability to create or significantly modify the surrounding habitat. Their interconnected reefs help to dissipate wave energy, which in turn reduces erosion along the shoreline.
As filter feeders, oysters help to remove particulate matter from the surrounding water and help to improve overall water quality. A single oyster can filter anywhere from 20 to 50 gallons of water a day!
However, oyster populations in Florida are quickly declining due to over harvesting, brown tide events, rising sea levels, and careless boaters. Globally over 85% of shellfish reefs are gone, and locally our oyster reefs are declining rapidly. By recycling oyster shell from local restaurants, we can help to create new oyster reefs to insure their success for years to come.