News Release – March 26, 2015Mar 27th, 2015 | Category: Announcements, MDC News, Oyster Restoration News
Shuck and Share Oyster Project Surpasses 100,000 Pounds
by Lisa Mickey
NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla., March 26, 2015 – Oyster eaters at participating Central Florida restaurants have helped the Marine Discovery Center’s “Shuck and Share” Oyster Recycling Project reach a new milestone.
The program, which recycles oyster shells from 14 local restaurants in New Smyrna Beach, Port Orange, Daytona Beach and Ponce Inlet, recently surpassed the mark of 100,000 pounds of oyster shells, which are recycled into the Indian River Lagoon as oyster mats and bags in reef restoration projects.
“We really weren’t sure what to expect or how the restaurants or the community would respond when we started this program, but it has far exceeded our expectations,” said Annie Morgan, shoreline restoration coordinator.
The program was launched in November 2013 and has currently collected 109,257 pounds of donated shells from local restaurants, as well as through private donations. In addition, volunteers in the oyster-recycling project have produced 1,670 mats and 2,133 oyster bags, with nearly half of all recycled shell material having already been returned into the estuary.
The bags and mats are strategically deployed into Volusia and Brevard County waters to help prevent erosion and rebuild shorelines of the lagoon, provide a habitat for juvenile fish and numerous species that live in oyster reefs, and to aid in reef repopulation by giving larval oysters a place to land and grow.
The project’s initial goal was to get five restaurants to supply oyster shells, but by the end of 2014, 11 local restaurants had become involved with three new businesses opting into the program earlier this year.
“The feedback we’ve had from local restaurant owners is this project has given them the opportunity to give back to the environment,” said Chad Truxall, executive director of the Marine Discovery Center. “It’s a great partnership for them too, because their customers like feeling they are helping to restore our oyster reefs through shell donation.”
One local restaurant, Off the Hook in New Smyrna Beach, has currently contributed the most shells with 32,300 pounds. Other participating restaurants in the Shuck and Share project are: JB’s Fish Camp, Oyster Pub, DJ’s Deck, The Sea Shack, McKenna’s Place New Smyrna Beach, McKenna’s Place Port Orange, Hidden Treasure on Rose Bay, Hidden Treasure on Ponce Inlet, Pub 44, First Turn, Racing’s North Turn, Boondock’s and Flagler Tavern.
Waste Pro USA, Inc. donates its services to transport the shells from the four largest restaurants to the Marine Discovery Center twice a week. Volunteers collect the shells at the other 10 restaurants twice a week and transport them to the center.
Oyster shells also come from private donations, clubs and organizations. Volunteers helping in the program range from scouts, church groups, senior citizen and homeowner associations to high school students needing community service hours for school.
“It’s gratifying that people want to be involved in all aspects of recycling these shells – from picking up the shells at the restaurants and creating the new reef materials to putting them back into the lagoon,” added Morgan.
And because New Smyrna Beach’s oyster recycling program in Volusia County has worked cooperatively with Brevard Zoo’s oyster program, the two programs are now working together under the Shuck and Share Oyster Recycling Project’s brand name. The two programs share shells, materials and volunteers to service the Indian River Lagoon across two counties.
Both programs also support the efforts of Dr. Linda Walters and her team at the University of Central Florida, which has been researching and restoring oyster reefs in the Indian River Lagoon for more than a decade.
“We can get a lot more done when we work together because we can combine boats, trucks, volunteers and shell material,” Morgan said. “What is trash to some really is treasure for this program and the Indian River Lagoon.”