In November of 2010, CBA and our Americorps Green Team launched the new Offer Your Shell to Enhance Restoration (OYSTER) shell recycling program. The ultimate goal of the OYSTER shell recycling program is to collect the oyster shells that would otherwise end up in a landfill, and reuse them to construct oyster reef habitat. Oyster populations have declined in many places worldwide, and Choctawhatchee Bay is no exception. By building reefs, we are providing a hard structure for oyster spat to settle and thrive as well as habitat for a variety of other important species. Since an adult oyster can filter as much as two and a half gallons of water per hour, it is very important that their populations flourish. Additionally, oyster reefs provide a barrier against waves and boat wakes, helping reduce shoreline erosion.

Restaurants who participate in the OYSTER Shell Recycling Program are given bright blue, 30 gallon recycling bins, which are kept outside the restaurants, as well as smaller buckets, which are kept inside near the shucking station. CBA picks up the blue bins at each restaurant 2-3 times per week, depending on the restaurants’ needs, and replaces each used bin with a clean one.

Once the shell is picked up, it is placed in an outdoor drying area and left for several weeks. Eventually, sun, rain, and time work to clean the shell and destroy any harmful microorganisms, and the shell is then ready to use for restoration. CBA staff and volunteers will shovel the clean shell into mesh bags. The shell bags, which weigh 20-30 pounds each, will be used as building blocks to construct a new oyster reef.

Since the start of the OYSTER Shell Recycling Program, we have grown to include over a dozen restaurants.

Current participating restaurants are:

The Back Porch

Bayou Bill’s Crab House

Buster’s Bar & Grill

Captain Dave’s on the Gulf

The Crab Trap (Destin)

O’Quigley’s

Kenny D’s Beach Bar & Grill

Shrimp Basket (Destin)

The Surf Hut (Destin)

Whole Foods Market (Destin)

Shunk Gulley

Half Shell (Destin)

AJ’s in Grayton Beach

If your restaurant or one you know of is interested in participating, please let us know. Educational materials about the program are available in all participating restaurants. So go out and support these restaurants, buy some oysters and thank them for their participation. It is because of their efforts that we will have a supplemental supply of oyster shells to continue to build oyster reefs and further enhance the health of the Choctawhatchee Basin Watershed.