A Pearl of a Recycling Program: Restoring Oyster Reefs

Jan 26, 2023

The time has come, as Lewis Carroll’s Walrus might say, to talk of oyster things. For example, what might one do with over 6,000 tons of oyster shells? For restaurants and consumers in Louisiana, all roads seemed to lead to the trash.

The nonprofit Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is trying to change that. The group uses the shells to make a difference. The shells are being returned to the waters they came from.

Oysters naturally group together in thick, wall-like reefs on the ocean floor. These barriers provide many benefits. They disrupt destructive storm surges, provide habitats for other species, and filter harmful microbes from the water. In the past 100 years, over 85% of oyster reefs have been destroyed. Those that remain are endangered. That's according to Phys.org. CRCL says that's what makes its project so vital. Climate change, over harvesting, and pollution all harmed the reefs.

“CRCL’s … program is a step toward restoring the coastline ecosystem. Improved habitat also translates into increased dollars for the economy as the oyster industry recovers,” CRCL states.

Since 2014, CRCL has collected shells from eateries and homes. They’ve gotten 12 million pounds of empty shells. The group has used them to rebuild about 8,000 feet of oyster reef. Darrah Bach, CRCL’s shell recycling coordinator, hopes their efforts are lasting.

“The beauty of this project is it’s self-sustaining. We’re creating an ecosystem that hopefully will last for a very long time …,” Bach told NPR.

Photo from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Which of the following benefits of oyster reefs is not included in the article? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. disrupt destructive storm surges
b. provide habitats for other species
c. filter harmful microbes from the water
d. provide food and nutrients to other species
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