Port Republic, NJ (AP) — Call it the Sea of Life Circle of Seafood. Shells discarded by diners are collected, washed and dumped in waterways across the country and around the world, where they form the basis of new oyster colonies.
One such latest project is taking place in Atlantic City, where the casino and two other restaurants store shells left over from their diet. The shells are then collected by the Department of State’s Environmental Protection Agency, and workers and volunteers from Rutgers University and Stockton University and the Pier Rock Foundation load them into barges and dump them into the Malika River.
According to the state’s environmental commissioner, Shawn La Tourette, this waterway is home to one of the last self-sustaining oyster habitats on the Atlantic coast. Clams, oysters and other shells form the basis of new or expanded oyster colonies as floating baby oysters, called spats, attach to the shell and begin to grow.
“Not only can we restore the ecosystem, but we can also keep 65 tonnes of shells away from the landfill,” said Scott Stuber, a DEP fishery biologist. This helps restaurants save on waste disposal costs.
The program began in 2019 and is currently collecting oysters from Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Casino, Knife & Folk Restaurant, and Oyster House in the Dock. Some other casinos are interested in participating.
Grace Chow, Vice President of Food and Beverages at Hard Rock, said: “The buffet on late days eats 500 oysters, and on busy days 1200 oysters.”
Oysters are a natural filter. An adult oyster can remove particles and contaminants from 50 gallons of water a day. In addition to improving water quality, oyster colonies are planted along the coastline as a strategy for coastal stabilization and storm mitigation. Rough underwater colonies act as speed bumps for destructive waves towards the coastline, consuming some of their energy.
The goal is not to create a new place to harvest and sell oysters for consumption in order to improve the environment.
In New Jersey, oysters can be harvested for commercial use in Delaware Bay, and the state has a strong oyster-growing aquaculture industry. The Malika River project aims to grow oysters for ecological purposes, but is considering the possibility of approval as a future commercial harvesting site, DEP said.
Communities, environmental groups and governments around the world have embraced oyster recycling and replanting in recent decades.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Maryland transforms 2,000 bushels of recycled shells annually into oyster habitats in the bay. In Texas, the Harte Research Institute at Texas A & M University has collected 1.75 million pounds of shells and restored 25 acres of oyster reefs since 2009.
The New York 1 Billion Oyster Project has collected 1.6 million pounds of shells from 75 restaurants and has planted 13 oyster reefs throughout New York Harbor since 2015. Florida has several programs, including one in Apalachicola Bay, and the Alabama Coastal Foundation has less than five years.
In Massachusetts, many towns have oyster recycling programs, such as the “Shuck It For Nantucket” program, as well as Welfleet and Martha’s Vineyard.
The effort extends to Australia, where Nature Conservancy’s “Shuck, Don’t Chuck” program recycles oysters and restores colonies in areas including Port Phillip Bay.
There are several such programs in New Jersey. Some are run by the American Littoral Society and some are run by the Long Beach Township.
In the Atlantic City project, the state uses trailers to patrol restaurants once a week and carry shells to a research station at Nacourt Creek in Port Republic. Therefore, let it dry for at least 6 months so that the meat and foreign matter remaining in the shell will burn.
When they are fully cured, the shells are loaded onto barges and pulled out into the Malika River. Within an hour, barge-riding workers use high-pressure hoses to blow a pile of 10-foot-high shells into the water, many times longer than using a shovel overboard. Achieve.
About 3,000 bushel shells will be placed in the river this year. Russ Babb, director of shellfish and fisheries at DEP, hopes to eventually increase that amount to 10,000 bushels annually.
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