Overview

Oysters are an important ecological and economic resource. They create habitat for fish and shellfish, filter and clean bay waters, protect shorelines from erosion, and are a valued commercial fishery. Young oysters depend upon the hard shell substrate provided by reefs for attachment and growth.

Yet, although more than 2.6 million pounds of oysters were harvested from Texas bays in 2008 alone—the second largest commercial oyster harvest in the U.S.—no mechanism exists for shucked oyster shells to be returned to bay waters to maintain existing reefs and restore degraded habitats. Instead, after being harvested, shucked oysters, including large quantities created by restaurants, are typically thrown in the trash. This disposal of oyster shell in landfills disrupts the natural process of oyster reef growth and regeneration and deprives reefs of their most fundamental building blocks.

Thus, there is a critical need to develop an oyster shell recycling program to reclaim oyster shells from local restaurants and other sources of shell to use in oyster reef restoration, habitat enhancement and marine resource conservation projects. Successful reclamation of oyster shells and use of these shells in fisheries habitat restoration in Coastal Bend bays will provide new opportunities for marine resource conservation coast-wide in the state of Texas.