Restaurants Saving Reefs With Oyster Shells

If there’s one industry proving itself to be an environmental hero, it’s the food industry. Restaurants have been teaming up to donate food to the needy as well as come up with more sustainable recipes. Now, restaurants in the Gulf Coast are giving back to nature by returning empty oyster shells.

While it’s common practice among seafood restaurants to send their empty shells to landfill with the rest of their waste, a handful of regions are beginning to put the shells to more productive use by returning them to the ocean, where they become the building blocks of restored oyster beds.

But if the discarded shells are empty, how are they helping to repair reefs? Not to worry. Young oysters will cling to unoccupied shells. The Nature Conservancy has since called for a $150 million investment in the hopes of repairing 100 miles of reefs.

the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the program has collected over 2.8 million oyster shells–enough to cover 5.5 acres in the Gulf. Each oyster shell returned to the ocean, Berte says, can become the habitat for 10 baby oysters. Additionally, adult oysters can filter around 15 gallons of water a day–significant for a region plagued with water-quality issues.

The reef restoration program has continued to prove the success of sustainable businesses. If more shell donations mean more oyster servings, I know I’m definitely off to a seafood joint tonight.

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