MISSISSIPPI LAUNCHES OYSTER RECYCLING PROGRAM--SAVE OUR SHELLS--THE NATURE CONSERVANCY--MDEQ
The Nature Conservancy in Mississippi is launching a pilot oyster shell recycling program called SAVE OUR SHELLS. TNC will be on hand Saturday March 25th at the 7th Annual Gulf Coast Oyster Cook-off Festival to kick off the SOS program. The SAVE OUR SHELLS program gives the community an opportunity to give back to the environment while protecting a valuable natural resource. It is estimated that the SOS program could collect hundreds of thousands of recycled oysters in the first two years that could be put back into the Mississippi Sound. Recycling used oyster shells is an effective use of natural material that can be placed in the water for oyster larvae to grow on and produce new oysters. This effort will also support the local fishing community, and local restaurants. Shells collected by local coastal restaurants will be set aside and later collected for the SAVE OUR SHELLS recycling program.
The key to the success of the SOS program is getting many local coastal restaurants to participate.
“The main reason that we're interested in participating in SAVE OUR SHELLS recycling program is sustainability. It's important to us, especially in the Gulf, we want to support the ecosystem that supports us. So, if there's some small way that we can put something back that we're taking out, then we know we're going to have a little more longevity in our seafood,” said Austin Sumrall, Owner-Executive Chef of White Pillars Restaurant in Biloxi.
The White Pillars restaurant the Beau Rivage, Keg and Barrell in Ocean Springs along with the MS coast Shrimp Basket locations are on board to recycle oysters in support of this program.
“Back in the day it was the oyster industry that put Biloxi on the map and so for the longevity of our city, and our region, it's imperative that we continue to promote our oyster legacy.” said Kristian Wade, Beau Rivage Executive Chef.
“It’s very straightforward - take the actual oyster shell and reuse it to help restore the very resource it’s providing. We are learning from the other successful programs like this in other states, to make this a viable long-term program for Mississippi," said Alex Littlejohn, State Director of TNC-Mississippi.
“Oyster shells are one of the best places for new oysters to grow. That is how they do it naturally, and with this program eating and enjoying oysters can be an act of conservation,” said Tom Mohrman, TNC’s director of marine programs.
The Nature Conservancy and project partners aim to begin collection of oyster shells from coast restaurants starting in the spring of 2023. Collected shells are planned to be delivered to the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources where they will be processed, cured, and integrated into restoration activities. We anticipate this initial pilot phase to continue collection for up to 2 years.
The SAVE OUR SHELLS pilot program has two phases. The first part of the project completed an analysis of the oyster shell recycling program’s economic and operational sustainability to determine how an oyster recycling program can be sustainably implemented in Mississippi.
Based on consideration of various factors including supply, long term collection, storage, and deployment of oyster shell used to maintain the State’s oyster resources, this phase resulted in an economic sustainability plan to guide the second phase of this program.
The second phase of the project is to begin implementation of shell collection. This includes working with restaurants to collect oyster shells, calculating how many shells are collected over time, and beginning the process of curing that material and preparation for restoration.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of a restaurant owner who would like to participate in SAVE OUR SHELLS.
The SAVE OUR SHELLS project is paid for with federal funding from the RESTORE Council and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality under the Resource and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act).