Jet Ski Brian

How To Recycle Oyster Shells, Put Them Back!

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My neighbor Julian and I have been raising oysters and restoring our adjoining waterfront property shorelines for a number of years. Three years ago was a milestone for us in that we completed over 2000 feet of shoreline reef restoration. This was a laborious and tedious process and all the shells were placed a couple bushels at a time and raked out by hand. I probably would not have done this if it were not for Julian who has pretty much dedicated his retirement years to giving back to the Bay. He is also an accomplished Chesapeake Bay and blue water angler.

I have found it rewarding and I have enjoyed seeing the fruits of our labor grow. Restoration is a slow and gradual process with a lot of trial and error and we are seeing great natural strike on the shells we have placed. Our long term goal is to have a self sustained shoreline and several adjacent shoreline reefs. This is our way of giving back to the Bay and being a giver not just a taker.

Julian and I are both members of TOGA, Tidewater Oyster Gardeners . We are a group that encourages the use of aquaculture to increase the population and growth of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. We do this through educational seminars and one on one with waterfront property owners.

One of the most difficult parts of creating reefs and shoreline reefs is finding the shells. Since the Chesapeake Bay oyster population is only at 1% of its historic high due primarily to over harvesting and then disease, there are not many shells to go around.

Why throw them in the trash, they need to be put back in.

I would like to thank Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, specifically Executive Chef Reese, Chef Rodney, and Chef Anthony. The Williamsburg Lodge has a great recycling program which includes the left over Oyster shells.

They understand the value of putting the shells back in the water to aid in the restoration of Oysters.

I collect these shells from the Lodge as well as Aberdeen Barn in Williamsburg. I keep them at my house until they are ready to go back in the water. Julian and I have several projects lined up to continue our effort and there is never enough shell so every little bit helps.

Wednesday I had several people over to see the progress that has been made. It was Chef Reese, Chef Rodney and Chef Travis of the Williamsburg Lodge. Chef Win and his wife Deb who are interested in doing some shoreline restoration in Gloucester. My brother John of Barhamsville and Julian my neighbor.

We showed them how we raise oysters in floats, cages and along the shoreline. My friend Bryant Baker and his brother in law Harvey raise Oysters through aquaculture right next to my property so we were also able to show them what a small commercial operation does as well.

Afterwards every one hung out for a while and we cooked a bunch of oysters on the grill. Some that Bryant gave us and some we took off our reefs.

It was a good time and I am glad everyone took the time out of their day to come and see what is possible if you put your mind to it.

I would like to state that all of the reefs are on private property, Riparian or leased private grounds. It is illegal to take, which means steal, from private or leased properties. This is a restorative effort that is under video surveillance.

Here are some pictures.

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Great work JSB, the oysters look good! A Big WTG to you sir!!! :icon_thumright:

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Brian, I enjoyed reading about and seeing the pictures of your oyster reefs you posted. I used to volunteer with the oyster recovery partnership in the MD portion of the bay diving on the oyster reefs for them and did several tours at the Horn point hatchery in Cambridge, MD. In case you are interested you may be able to get spat from the hatchery for your oyster bars. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science also has a oyster hatchery in Gloucester Point Va. For anyone else out there you can tour these hatcheries and I found it very interesting and informative to learn about and see the lifecycle of the oyster.

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