"To protect and restore the Florida coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems
through education, research and community stewardship."

Shuck and Share Oyster Recycling Expands Into Four Counties

Feb 8th, 2016 | Category: MDC News, Oyster Restoration News

By Lisa D. Mickey

Lagoon Restoration through Oyster Recycling

The Shuck and Share Oyster Recycling Project, based at the Marine Discovery Center, has expanded into four counties on the east coast of Florida.

The grant-funded program launched in Volusia County in December 2013, and connected with Brevard County in 2014 through the oyster-recycling program already in place at the Brevard Zoo.

Flagler County joined the program in January 2016, with the addition of Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, followed by Florida Oceanographic Society in Martin County, which joined the Shuck and Share program earlier this month.

“The goal is the same as it has been since we started and that is to clean up the Indian River Lagoon and to help slow down erosion along our waterways,” said Jessy Wayles, shoreline restoration specialist with the Shuck and Share program based at the Marine Discovery Center in Volusia County. “We’re trying to get people involved up and down our coastline.”

Flagler County is located north of the Indian River Lagoon, but oyster bags created from recycled oyster shells will be used to control erosion along the shorelines of the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway.

“We’re really excited about this restoration program and we’re already working with three local restaurants to get shells to make the oyster bags,” said Barbara Roberts, park manager at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area in Flagler County.

Roberts also manages North Peninsula State Park, which is part of the Gamble Rogers park system that borders the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway. The park plans to tap into its substantial volunteer corps, Friends of Gamble Rogers (a.k.a. FROGRS), to help produce oyster bags for shoreline stabilization.

Farther south toward Stuart, Florida Oceanographic Society (FOS) in Martin County, will now also fall under the Shuck and Share umbrella with its existing oyster recycling program, called FLOOR (Florida Oceanographic Oyster Recycling). Wayles said the hope is to continue broadening the reach of the program into central-south Florida, as well as into north Florida.

“If a location already has a recycling project in place, such as Brevard Zoo and FOS, they’ll continue to operate their program, but by putting everybody under the same name, logo and marketing scheme, we’re all working together toward a common goal and sharing resources, materials, ideas and sometimes even volunteers,” added Wayles.

The Shuck and Share program in Volusia County currently works with 10 area restaurants that recycle oyster shells. Those shells would ordinarily become trash.

The program has recycled nearly 200,000 pounds of shell since late 2013. More than half of that amount has already been recycled for use in oyster bags and oyster mats used as restoration materials in the Indian River Lagoon.

“It’s absolutely amazing to see the community come together and take part in the oyster recycling program,” said Wayles. “We’re filling a need in the community and we have a great group of volunteers who are excited about this program and work hard to make it successful.”

MDC’s Shuck and Share volunteers, for example, constructed 531 oyster bags during a recent “bagging day” at the center. Five hundred of those bags will be shared with Brevard Zoo for a shoreline restoration in March. Each bag weighs between 28-35 pounds and holds about five gallons of shell material.

In addition to volunteer labor, Waste Pro is also an active partner in the Volusia County program. The company’s trucks collect large-volume shells each week at two restaurants — Off the Hook in New Smyrna Beach and Oyster Pub in Daytona Beach.

“Without Waste Pro, we would not have been able to recycle about 78 percent of the shell that we have used in this program,” said Wayles.

Along with Waste Pro, Shuck and Share partners include St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Brevard Zoo, Gamble Rogers State Park (through the Florida State Parks System), Florida Oceanographic Society and the University of Central Florida.

The Marine Discovery Center hosts oyster bag-making workshops each first Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to noon in the back oyster lot behind the center. All volunteers are welcome and encouraged to check MDC’s weekly online calendar to confirm oyster-bagging dates.

To learn more about the Shuck and Share Oyster Recycling Project and its mission, read about it at http://www.marinediscoverycenter.org/community-restoration/oysters/, as well as on www.floridalivingshorelines.com.