START Expands GCORR Oyster Program

It all began back in 2017 when Robert Baugh, General Manager of the Chiles Restaurant Group, suggested that we adopt an oyster recycling program like the one he worked on with restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina. It involved saving oyster shell from restaurant diners and using them to build new oyster reefs in the nearby waterways. This is a meaningful process because oysters are important water filters that help reduce nutrients in our waterways that can feed harmful algae blooms like red tide. One oyster can filter from 9 to 50 gallons of seawater a day.

Using Robert’s experience from Charleston and a grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, the Gulf Coast Oyster Recycling and Renewal (GCORR) Program was launched. START was the administrator for the project, with Robert and his volunteers collecting the shell from the Beach House, Mar Vista and The Sandbar Restaurants and delivering it to a storage area at nearby Perico Preserve. Staff from the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department stored the shell for a curing period and later worked with volunteers to bag the shell and place it in the water at Robinson and Perico Preserves to build new oyster reefs. The Gulf Coast Shellfish Institute and the University of Florida Sea Grant Program contributed preparatory and monitoring research on the results of the program to complete the GCORR Partnership. Their work revealed that the “Live” shell from restaurants produced 23% more new oyster spat that the fossil shell usually used in restoration projects.

Today the GCORR program has just won its second environmental award for excellence, this time from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Authority and the program has grown to include the eleven participating restaurants listed below. This was achieved by providing professional carting for the shell by Waste Pro. Each of the restaurants pays their own monthly carting fee with no government or other subsidy to support the program. With the eleven participating restaurants and an estimated 8o tons of restaurant shell kept out of our landfills and used for starting oyster reefs, Manatee County has the largest oyster restoration program in the state and, we believe, the only one that is self-funded by the restaurants.

So, the next time you want to try some good shellfish, head out to one of these fine Shuck ‘N Save seafood restaurants and help support their landmark effort to help improve the quality of our waterways.

The Anna Maria Oyster Bars at 6906 14th Street West in Bradenton, 6696 Cortez Road West in Bradenton, 200 Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach and 1525 51st Avenue East in Ellenton.

The Beach House at 200 Gulf Drive North in Bradenton Beach, The Grove at Lakewood Ranch at 10670 Boardwalk Loop in Lakewood Ranch, Mar Vista at 760 Broadway on Longboat Key, Pier 22 at 1200 1st Avenue West in Bradenton, The Sandbar at 100 Spring Street on Anna Maria Island, the Seafood Shack at 4110 127th Street West in Cortez and the Swordfish Grill at 4628 119th Street West, Cortez.

When you stop in to dine at these restaurants, be sure to mention that START sent you and thank them for their help in improving the quality of our coastal waters.

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