Thanks to a generous grant from the Manatee Fish & Game Association through their Conservation Fund with the Manatee Community Foundation, START will be able to expand our landmark Gulf Coast Oyster Recycle and Renewal (GCORR) Program. Oysters are a keystone species in our marine environment as active water filterers that play a major role in improving water quality in our coastal waterways.
The program began a year ago with a grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TEP) that brought together the GCORR partnership with START, The Chiles Group of restaurants, the Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department, the Gulf Shellfish Institute and the Florida University IFAS Program. Used oyster shells from diners at The Sandbar, Beach House and Mar Vista restaurants are collected by the restaurants’ staff in 32-gallon recycling bins and delivered twice a week to a special storage area at Perico Preserve. After a period of curing to eliminate remaining organic debris, the shells are then bagged by volunteers and used for a natural structural base that attracts oysters that will build a new oyster colony or reef. The new oyster habitat will help reduce nutrients that cloud the water blocking out needed sunlight for seagrass and reducing available sustenance to support red tide.
The GCORR process has a number of positive environmental effects. It reduces needless waste by keeping the used shells from the participating restaurants out of local landfills and it eliminates the environmental damage and cost of digging up fossil shells that have been traditionally used in creating new oyster habitat. And the “live” shells from the restaurants have so far produced 19% more new oysters than the fossil shells.
The new Conservation Grant from the Manatee Fish & Game Association not only allows us to continue this successful program, but to expand it with permitting for new oyster habitat and with our new partner, Realize Bradenton, to host START’s Shoreline Shindig on Saturday, October 13th from noon to 3:00 PM on the Riverwalk in Bradenton. Admission is free and the event will feature a range of food and beverage options, some games for kids and interesting educational displays and materials demonstrating the importance of preserving our shorelines and the role oysters can play in that process.
Be sure to mark October 13th on your calendar so the whole family can enjoy this celebration of our shorelines on the Riverwalk in Bradenton. To learn more about the event or to join us as a START volunteer, contact our Program Manager, Mary Anne Bowie, at BowieFAICP@gmail.com.