Oyster Shell Recycling Program Eyes Higher Goal

OCEAN CITY – The Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) has resumed its shell recycling program in Ocean City ahead of the summer season.

This year, Blu Crabhouse & Raw Bar, 94th Street Bull on the Beach, The Crab Bag, Embers Restaurant, Fager’s Island, Harrison’s Harbor Watch, Phillips Seafood House, Ropewalk, Skye Bar and Waterman’s Seafood Company are partnering with the Shell Recycling Alliance to recycle oyster shells.

Tommy Price, shell recycling operations manager for ORP, said officials with the nonprofit hope to collect 1,000 bushels of oyster shell in Ocean City this year, a goal which surpasses the 824 bushels of shell collected in the resort from May through September of last season.

Price said the program resumed its shell recycling operation in Ocean City two weeks ago and since then has collected more than 100 bushels of oyster shells.

“Just from Ocean City we have collected 162 bushels so far,” he said. “We are off to a pretty good start.”

According to the ORP, the alliance is the largest shell recycling network in the country, with more than 250 participating seafood businesses and 60 drop off sites in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.

Restaurants that participate in recycling program save oyster shells in containers that are provided by ORP. The nonprofit then collects the shells each week and takes them to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery in Cambridge.

Price said these shells are beneficial to oyster restoration, acting as a preferable surface on which oyster larvae can grow.

“Every shell can grow 10 oysters,” he said.

Since its launch in 2010, the Shell Recycling Alliance has recycled 122,000 bushels of shell, enough to plant up to 600 million oysters, according to the ORP. The 824 bushels of shell Ocean City restaurants recycled last year supported 4.1 million baby oysters that were planted in the bay.

Although the program has resumed its operations for the season, Price explained that the alliance has been working with some Ocean City restaurants throughout the winter months to collect oyster shells.

“We do a few events in the winter with Fager’s and Harrison’s,” he said. “Fager’s and Harrison’s make up a vast majority of our numbers.”

Price encourages businesses that serve oysters to partake in the recycling program, a free service that supports the nonprofit’s mission.

Since 1993, ORP has focused on restoring oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay, planting more than 6.7 billion oysters on more than 2,400 acres.

“Oyster shell is the single most critical, yet limited, resource to oyster restoration, so every shell saved from the trash and used to enhance oyster reefs is a small victory,” ORP Executive Director Stephan Abel said in a press release. “We’re extremely fortunate to have these conservation-minded businesses continue to do their part, recycling shells and educating customers on the program and its importance to a healthy oyster population and Chesapeake Bay.”

For more information, visit shellrecycling.org.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.