Fuller’s Raw Bar in Hampton has recycled approximately 390,000 oyster shells since the beginning of 2019, a record for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) Virginia Oyster Restoration Program. The recycled shell totals 472 bushels, enough to seed nearly 4 acres of sanctuary reefs with about 3.9 million young oysters. This the most shell to come from a single source in CBF’s Virginia efforts in recent years.
Oysters in the Chesapeake have declined to a fraction of historic levels due to disease, pollution, and overharvest, but are coming back thanks to targeted restoration efforts and an increase in aquaculture. CBF marks this progress this November, which is Virginia Oyster Month.
Empty oyster shells are a valuable resource for the Chesapeake Bay because they are a good surface for baby oysters to attach to. On average each shell anchors ten baby oysters, which are then planted on sanctuary reefs that filter water and create habitat for fish, crabs, and other marine life. The dozens of Virginia restaurants that participate in CBF’s shell recycling program save empty oyster shells after meals, which are picked up by volunteers and brought to drop off bins across Hampton Roads.
“Given the challenges everyone has faced during COVID restrictions, we honestly had concerns about our efforts to bring back oysters in the Chesapeake Bay,” said CBF Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager Jackie Shannon. “Fuller’s Raw Bar and many other restaurants around Virginia overcame huge hurdles this year while continuing to support oyster restoration. We can’t restore the Bay’s oyster population without this support from volunteers, restaurants, and other partners”
Fuller’s Raw Bar has recycled oyster shells with CBF since it opened in 2019. The shells from Fuller’s are dropped off at a bin at Sam Rust Seafood. For a full list of shell drop-off bins, visit this link.
“Recycling oyster shells is just the responsible thing for us to do. Instead of ending up in a landfill, all these shells are going back in the water to become part of oyster reefs,” said Fuller’s Raw Bar Executive Chef and Owner John Ledbetter. “It makes me and my partners very proud to know that we’re contributing to the health of the Bay.”
CBF’s Oyster Gardening Program Continues to Shatter Records
After baby oysters, called spat, set on shells, some are raised to adulthood by volunteer CBF oyster gardeners across Tidewater Virginia off docks at home or public locations. These oysters are eventually planted on sanctuary reefs.
CBF’s 444 Virginia oyster gardeners continue to shatter records, this year returning 146,378 oysters. That’s 40,000 more than 2019, which broke previous records with 106,154 oysters. This year’s oysters were planted on sanctuary reefs in the Lynnhaven, Lafayette, and Rappahannock, and York rivers, as well as on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
“While the mild winter last year helped boost oyster survival, the dedication of our volunteer oyster gardeners and shell recycling volunteers was a big factor in this year’s success,” said Shannon. “We’re grateful for the many people who play an integral part in bringing oysters back to the Chesapeake Bay, from restaurants to volunteers to countless other organizations.”
This oyster restoration work in Virginia is part of the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance’s efforts to add 10 billion oysters to the Bay through restoring sanctuary reefs, supporting oyster aquaculture, and science-based fishery management. For more information visit http://www.chesapeakeoysteralliance.org/.