START Leads Oyster Reclamation Project

With a grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, START has been administering the exciting new Gulf Coast Oyster Reclamation and Renewal Program (GCORR) with supporting partners the Chiles Group of restaurants, Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, the Gulf Coast Shellfish Institute and the University of Florida IFAS Program.

Used Oyster shells from the Chiles Group of Restaurants, The Beach House, Mar Vista and The Sandbar, are cleaned and collected in special storage bins and transported by Chiles Group volunteers to Robinson’s Preserve where they are stored and cured for a few months. They are then bagged or secured in oyster mats to create new oyster habitat. This program is uniquely environmentally sustainable because it replaces the wasteful use of fossilized shells normally used as a hard surface for oyster seeding with freshly used oyster shells that would normally be sent as garbage to landfills. In addition, there is some evidence in research from other oyster reclamation projects that oysters are more apt to settle on the freshly used shells.

The first public demonstration of the workings of the GCORR program was held at Perico Preserve on Saturday morning, May 6, in an event staged by the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department and sponsored by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and Around The Bend Nature Tours. Volunteers learned about the importance of oysters in our marine environment and were shown how to properly set up the oyster mats shown above to establish new oyster beds. The event ended with a free lunch at noon.

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