Tony Piera, owner of Mike’s Crab House.
The Oyster Recovery Partnership’s shell recycling program collected a record-breaking 1,169 tons (33,400 bushels) of oyster shell from 340 member establishments throughout the Chesapeake Bay area in 2017, illustrating the increasing efforts and commitment of local businesses to help restore the region’s oyster population. The year’s top contributors are restaurants and seafood suppliers in Annapolis, Baltimore, Hunt Valley, Jessup and Washington, D.C.
“As our name suggests, the fundamental pillar of the Oyster Recovery Partnership is our partners,” said ORP Executive Director Stephan Abel. “The largescale Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration projects seen today would not be possible without the help and resources of our diverse group of supporters. We’re fortunate and grateful that the community has wholeheartedly embraced shell recycling for the greater good of our environment.”
Since the Shell Recycling Alliance’s launch in 2010, ORP has reclaimed 143,000 bushels of shell, which equates to 5,005 tons kept out of area landfills, approximately $300,000 saved by local businesses in waste collection fees, and enough substrate to support the planting of 715 million oysters in local waters. The program is the nation’s largest shell recycling network with 340 member seafood businesses and 61 public shell drop off sites throughout Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia
The Top 10 Shell Recycling Alliance contributors of 2017 are:
Congressional Seafood Company (Jessup, Md.) — 1,745 bushels (reclaimed from customer distribution sites)
Old Ebbitt Grill (D.C.) — 1,420 bushels
Faidley’s Seafood (Baltimore, Md.) — 1,161 bushels
Boatyard Bar and Grill (Annapolis, Md.) — 946 bushels
Rappahannock Oyster Bar (D.C.) — 884 bushels
The Local Oyster Restaurant and Catering(Baltimore, Md.) — 881 bushels
Jessie Taylor Seafood (D.C.) — 852 bushels
Captain White Seafood City (D.C.) — 852 bushels
Ryleigh’s Oyster (Hunt Valley, Md.) — 848 bushels
Mike’s Crab House (Riva, Md.) — 822 bushels
“We’re so proud of our partnership with ORP,” said Jon Pearlman, Vice President of Congressional Seafood Company. “It brings us great joy to reclaim oyster shell from our client restaurants to support Chesapeake Bay restoration projects. By spreading the word of ORP’s work and supporting their efforts, we feel like we have a hand in a greater cause.”
After it’s collected, the shell aged outside for one year, washed and set with spat at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery in Cambridge. ORP then works with restoration partners to plant the shell and attached spat on reefs throughout the Chesapeake Bay where they will grow and flourish.
“The Oyster Recovery Partnership is a true asset to the Chesapeake Bay and all of those who rely on it,” said Tony Piera, owner of Mike’s Crab House. “Our families, friends and customers live, work, and play on the Bay, so participating in the program is very important to us. We are committed to recycling as many shells as possible.”
Oyster shell is vital to a healthy oyster population because it is the preferred material for oyster larvae to attach and grow–with every half shell able to host up to 10 spat (baby oysters). Oysters play a vital role in improving Bay health by filtering excess nutrients from the water, and their reefs create habitat for a multitude of marine life.
ORP is the nation’s leading nonprofit dedicated to the large-scale restoration of oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay, planting 7 billion oysters on more than 2,400 acres of oyster habitat in Maryland since 1993.
On a national scale, shell recycling is becoming a mainstream practice among coastal communities and businesses. As the public becomes increasingly invested in oysters, groups are establishing their own restoration and education programs, some of which are highlighted here. Businesses and individuals who recycle their shell in Maryland are eligible for a state tax credit of up to $750 annually. Learn more about this free service at shellrecycling.org.