Oyster shells play part in restoring IRL

The Shuck and Share program of the Brevard Zoo has an interesting slogan to describe its oyster recycling program.

"Putting your dinner to work!"

The oyster recycling program with local restaurants and seafood festivals is an innovative part of water restoration.

This is how it works. After dining at your favorite seafood restaurant, your oyster shells are put into a special bin and picked up weekly by volunteers for the local oyster recycling program.

Next, the recycled shells are turned into oyster modules for habitat restoration programs. These modules are placed to form an oyster reef, and habitat begins to form as oyster larvae settle on the shells to grow. In three to five years, you have the next generation of harvestable oysters.

Did you know that a mature oyster can filter between 20 and 50 gallons of water a day?

For years, marine biologists, scientists and environmentalists have discussed projects to restore the declining oyster populations in the Indian River Lagoon.

The anticipated results include improved water quality, and oyster beds providing habitat, food and protection for other species near them. Oyster reefs act as a wave break to decrease shoreline erosion.

Several organizations have initiated programs using funds from the state of Florida, local county funds and donations from the public. Some include the Restore Our Shores — Oyster Mats & Gardening, the Oyster Reef Restoration Project for the Mosquito and Indian River Lagoons, the Living Shoreline Project to restore oyster beds, and the Shuck and Share Oyster Restoration.

According to Brevard Zoo’s RestoreOurShores.org website, Brevard County has 11 restaurants that have joined this recycling program.  They include Bonefish Willy’s Riverfront Grille, Bunky’s Raw Bar and Grille, Dixie Crossroads, Fish Lips, Island Fish Grille, Molly’s Seafood Shack, Norman’s Raw Bar and Grille, River Rocks, Seafood Atlantic Inc., Sunset Waterfront Grille and Bar, and Victorio’s Oyster Bar.

Volunteers are needed to pick up shells from the restaurants listed. Create oyster restoration materials and deploy the final product into an oyster reef, break water or living shoreline.

For information on how to help, email restoreourshores@BrevardZoo.org or go to HelpTheLagoon.org.