(Virginia)—Restaurants and seafood lovers are urgently needed to help provide the 3,000 bushels of oyster shells needed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) this year to build new oyster reefs. Restaurants across Virginia are chipping in by donating shells after meals towards the effort, but so far this year CBF only has collected only about 1,500 bushels ahead of a June 30 deadline.
Donating shells supports efforts by the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance to add 10 billion new oysters to the Bay by 2025. Not having enough shells would jeopardize progress bringing back Virginia's native oyster.
"Empty oyster shells are a scarce resource that are used as the foundation of new oyster reefs," said CBF Oyster Restoration Specialist Heather North. "The restaurants and seafood lovers who donate empty shells after meals are a key part of the comeback of the Chesapeake Bay oysters we all enjoy. It's crucial that more restaurants participate to keep up momentum."
Each recycled shell can eventually become home to more than a dozen baby oysters, called spat. Any restaurant that serves oysters can sign up to participate, and local residents can also donate shells after oyster roasts and meals by dropping them off at numerous public shell recycling bins across Hampton Roads, the Middle Peninsula, and the Northern Neck.
Volunteers collect empty oyster shells from participating restaurants and the public bins. The shells are cleaned and placed into tanks containing millions of microscopic oyster larvae, which then attach to the shells. CBF provides the spat-on-shell to its oyster gardeners and plants them in rivers and the Bay to grow and expand oyster reefs.