The Offer Your Shell To Enhance Restoration (O.Y.S.T.E.R) recycling pilot program kicked off the new year in Santa Rosa County. Participating restaurants, including the Cutting Board, Cosse's Place in Milton and the Shrimp Basket (Milton and Navarre locations), have committed to recycling their shells. Members of the Conservation Corps of the Emerald Coast (CCEC), part of Franklin's Promise Coalition, are making the regular collections.
Collected shell is then “cured” (left to the elements to eliminate soft tissue and bacteria) for future use in local oyster reef restoration projects. This helps reduce the amount of shell taken to the landfill and ultimately benefits local oyster reef restoration projects. When the shell is placed in the water, baby oysters, called “spat” are attracted to the clean shell and create or enhance oyster reefs. These reefs provide habitat and food for red drum, speckled trout, gulf sturgeon and other marine organisms.
The program is a partnership with Santa Rosa County's UF/IFAS Fl. Sea Grant Extension, Grants & Special Programs and the Environmental Department. The collecting method and outreach materials were developed based on local projects such as Keep Pensacola Beautiful in Escambia County, the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance in Okaloosa and Walton counties and the Alabama Coastal Foundation Oyster Shell recycling program in Baldwin and Mobile counties in Alabama. The effort is a part of a broader Oyster Habitat Restoration Project funded through the RESTORE Act Direct Component Funds, as a result of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
To date, 3.22 tons (14,860 lbs.) of shell has been collected, far exceeding the original goal of 2400 lbs by 2022. The success of the program is dependent upon our partners and volunteers who will assist in bringing the cured oyster shells back into the waters of Santa Rosa County.
For more information about becoming a participating restaurant or if you are interested in volunteering, contact Chris Verlinde at the UF/IFAS Extension office of Santa Rosa County at 850-623-3868 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Collecting these oyster shells is investing in the future, with the dried shell used to construct oyster reefs, which promotes ecosystem health and marine life. It’s giving back to our planet while paying it forward to the next generation, and that makes it all worthwhile.” --Reggie Miller, CCEC Member