The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana resumes Oyster Shell Recycling Program

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NEW ORLEANS – The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana this week resumed their Oyster Shell Recycling Program — which had been shut down since mid-March as a result of the pandemic — after what was a banner year for oyster shell recycling in Louisiana despite the extenuating circumstances. 

The Oyster Shell Recycling Program collects shells from partner restaurants in New Orleans after oysters have been consumed. The shell is later packaged into marine-grade mesh bags and deployed into Louisiana’s waters to create oyster reefs, also known as living shorelines, which help to protect the coast by acting as wave breaks that help prevent soil from eroding. 

The seven restaurants initially involved with the program’s resumption are Cooter Brown’s Tavern & Oyster Bar; New Orleans Creole Cookery; Peche Seafood Grill; Redfish Grill; Seaworthy; Elysian Seafood (at St. Roch Market); and Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar.

“We are grateful to our restaurant partners, volunteers and others who have supported our Oyster Shell Recycling Program — even to people who support coastal restoration in Louisiana by simply slurping down some oysters,” said James Karst, director of communications and marketing at the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL). “This program is a win-win-win for our state. It supports the oyster industry and our restaurants, both of which have been hit hard by the pandemic, by encouraging people to enjoy one of the signature items on Louisiana menus. It protects our coast through the construction of oyster reefs, and therefore it protects our communities and our jobs. It diverts a plentiful resource from landfills. And it creates habitat for new oysters and other wildlife.”

CRCL constructed two oyster reefs before the pandemic began, but shell collection was placed on hold as New Orleans restaurants closed their doors. Planned volunteer events had to be canceled, and the delivery of gabions, steel cages used to give the reef structure, was delayed as the factory where they are assembled was closed due to COVID.

The gabions were eventually delivered, and CRCL built its third oyster reef in August. With shell collection resuming, the Oyster Shell Recycling Program is nearing a return to normal. A fourth reef is planned for Plaquemines Parish this year.

“Our Oyster Shell Recycling Program connects many different components of our work at CRCL,” said the organization’s executive director, Kim Reyher. “But most importantly, it helps stave off the steady fall of our coast into the Gulf of Mexico. Our coast is an important component of our hurricane protection here in south Louisiana, and we’ve been reminded this year all too often and all too tragically of the need to restore it.”

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