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The Nature Conservancy launches pilot oyster recycling program

Photo courtesy of the University of Southern Mississippi's Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center

If you love oysters, you may already know that used oyster shells can be placed in the water for larvae to grow on and produce new oysters.  The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Mississippi is launching a pilot oyster shell recycling program aimed at understanding the potential impact of using oyster shells collected from local restaurants to help improve oyster populations and industry along the Gulf Coast.

.“It’s very straight forward – take the actual oyster shell and reuse it to help restore the very resource it’s providing. But the devil is always in the details. We want to learn from the other successful programs like this in other states, work through the kinks and make this a viable program for Mississippi”, said Alex Littlejohn, State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Mississippi.

“Oyster shells are one of the best places for new oysters to grow. That is how they do it naturally, and with this program eating and enjoying oysters can be an act of conservation,” said Tom Mohrman, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Marine Programs. “Implementing this pilot project is an opportunity to support the local fishing community, local restaurants, and to also give back to the environment while protecting and growing a valuable natural resource.”

Oyster populations have decreased over time throughout the Gulf of Mexico, as well as in the Mississippi Sound.  The causes often vary.  Natural disasters, water quality, over-harvesting and a reduction in oyster reef habitat can all play a part.

There will be two phases of this program.  First, they’ll perform an analysis of the program’s economic and operational sustainability which will result in a written plan that will guide the second phase.  The second phase will depend on the outcome of that analysis.

This project is paid for with federal funding from the RESTORE Council and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act).

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