Oyster Shell Recycling to Restore Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Watch (TBW) launched a pilot oyster shell recycling program this year in partnership with local restaurants including The Island Grille & Raw Bar in Tierra Verde.

Oyster shell is an important tool used to help increase available substrate for future oyster populations. In the past, when oyster shell was more readily available, it was used to fill shell bags and then installed in oyster reef projects throughout the bay. This shell has become increasingly difficult to obtain for large scale projects. Much of the shell is being deposited in landfills or being shipped out of the region.

It is the desire of Tampa Bay Watch to capture the shell before it is shipped out of the region or destined for the landfill. By implementing a large-scale oyster shell recycling program, TBW hopes to interrupt this process and deploy the oyster shell back into the bay using a number of different methods. This will result in an increase in available oyster habitat and ideally increase oyster populations exponentially.

The Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is an organism of critical importance in estuaries throughout coastal America. Oysters serve a number of beneficial ecological functions. From shoreline stabilization to providing habitat for a number of commercially and recreationally important fish species, oysters are vital for the overall health of Florida’s estuaries. As a filter feeder, an adult oyster is capable of filtering up to 2 gallons of water per hour. With healthy populations that can number in the thousands or more, oyster reefs can have a profound effect on water quality.

Recycled shell is delivered to the Fort De Soto Park Shell depository to cure for a minimum of 3 months per guidelines. This ensures that no non-native organisms or disease is introduced to Tampa Bay waters. The goal of this program is to not only drastically reduce the amount of shell reaching landfills, but improve Tampa Bay Waters by increasing the available habitat for oysters with our Vertical Oyster Garden (VOG) and Living Shoreline projects.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: