Volunteers Needed for CBF’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program

Jack Elder drops off recycled oyster shells from The Butcher’s Son in Chesapeake into a bin. Photo courtesy: Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is seeking additional restaurants and volunteers in Hampton Roads to help restore the native oyster population during Virginia oyster month this November.

Volunteers for CBF’s oyster shell recycling program simply collect empty shells from participating restaurants. These shells become the building blocks for new oyster reefs. Every year CBF turns about 2,000 bushels of empty shells into habitats for millions of oysters planted in Virginia waters.

“Many people don’t realize that oyster shells are a precious resource that should go back in the water,” said CBF Oyster Restoration Specialist Heather North in a press release. “By simply saving used shells, restaurants are helping rebuild oyster reefs that in turn support local seafood. Our network of restaurants and volunteers is a key part of boosting Virginia’s oyster population.”

Restaurants from Virginia Beach to Charlottesville are currently saving empty oyster shells. Volunteers collect the shells weekly and take them to nearby drop-off locations.

Once the shells are cleaned and cured, CBF places them in 800-gallon water tanks containing microscopic oyster larvae that attach themselves to the empty shells. CBF plants these on sanctuary oyster reefs in local rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. The oysters grow, reproduce, and form reefs that provide habitat for crabs, fish, shrimp and other life.

CBF’s oyster shell recycling program allows seafood restaurants to give back to the waters they depend on. It’s another way for volunteers, like Susan and Jack Elder, to help restore the Bay. They collect shells from local restaurants such as The Butcher’s Son in Chesapeake.

“If we can take a few hours each week to help save our natural resources, it’s worth it,” said Susan. “We want to help support the oyster population in the Bay. Sometimes the obstacles facing the health of our environment seem overwhelming, but this is a way for even one person to make a difference.”

Volunteers or restaurants interested in participating can contact North at HNorth@cbf.org. For more information and to see the list of participating restaurants and drop-off locations for shells, click here.