Six years in, the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s shell recycling program is a success, thanks in no small part to Maryland’s seafood restaurants.
Today, the nonprofit announced it collected a record 30,200 bushels of oyster shells last year, enough to house 150 million oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.
One might ask, “what good is this old half shell now that it’s no longer a home for the oyster I just ate?” But those shells can go a long way. For decades, the Annapolis-based Oyster Recovery Partnership has been replanting them around Maryland. Each half shell can house up to 10 “spat,” or baby oysters.
Once the Oyster Recovery Partnership has the shells in hand, the group ages them for a year, then fills each one with spat and lets them develop down at the University of Maryland’s oyster hatchery in Horn Point, near Cambridge, Md. Staff there eventually plant them on reefs around the Chesapeake Bay.
The benefit of adding new oysters to the bay is twofold. In addition to helping replenish oyster populations, organizations can plant them to clean up waterways. Once grown, an oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water daily. The Waterfront Partnership has tried this strategy out here in Baltimore, installing oyster cages filled with the bivalve mollusks around the harbor to help clean the murky water.
According to Oyster Recovery Partnership director Stephan Abel, the 2016 collection total surpassed the record set in 2015 by 4,200 bushels. “We’re grateful to all of our recycling members and the patrons who support these establishments for making a concerted effort to save their used shell,” he said in a statement.
The nonprofit has been planting oyster shells around the Chesapeake Bay since 1993, but didn’t launch its “Shell Recycling Alliance” program until 2010. The number of partner businesses has ballooned from 22 restaurants to more than 300 businesses. They’ve also established oyster shell drop-off sites, including one that has been operational since May at the Baltimore City recycling center at 2840 Sisson Street in Remington.
Two of the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s top shell contributors last year were in Baltimore (Faidley’s Seafood in Lexington Market, The Local Oyster), while Annapolis was home to two others (Mike’s Crab House, Boatyard Bar and Grill). Jessup-based seafood supplier Congressional Seafood was far and away the leader among recycling partners.
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