Oyster Recycling Program Ready for Summer Season

This program gathers empty oyster shells from restaurants to help build up a restored oyster reef in the Barnegat Bay.
Photo by Ryan Morrill

By Juliet Kaszas-Hoch, The Sandpaper (May 16, 2018)

Last Monday, the Oyster Recycling Program truck left Long Beach Township (LBT) and visited a dozen local restaurants to pick up oyster shells the establishments collect following their customers’ meals. The day’s tally was 21 baskets, said Angela Andersen, township sustainability coordinator. Soon, pickup will increase to three days a week, as area businesses shift into high gear for summer.

The program, a community collective driven by LBT, Parsons Seafood, Stockton University, Jetty and its Jetty Rock Foundation, involves gathering empty oyster shells from partner restaurants for use to raise more oysters in Barnegat Bay. Baby oysters – spat – require a hard shell on which to grow; this is what the recycling initiative provides.

Oyster restoration comprises the creation of reefs with oyster shells set with larvae. With grant funding provided by the Barnegat Bay Partnership, Stockton University and Parsons created a new oyster reef in the southern part of the bay near Tuckerton. (For more information about the project, read “One Small Build for Oyster Kind,” BBP blog post dated May 7, 2018.) The shells collected through the Oyster Recycling Program are being used to continue to grow this reef.

Long Beach Township picks up empty shells – stored in green, bushel-size fish baskets, provided by the program – from the participating businesses, and takes them to Parsons or Stockton, where they cure for six months. They are then set with spat in the Parsons mariculture tanks before Stockton vessels deploy them onto the reef site and monitor the growth and survivorability.

“We really have to get our oyster reefs and clam beds back to where they were, for two reasons: It keeps the water clean, and it’s part of the heritage of Barnegat Bay,” township Mayor Joseph Mancini said when the shell recycling program began.

Today, fortunately, oyster farming is making a comeback, with benefit to the bay – to its cleanliness and biodiversity – as well as to the local economy, and to diners, who are now able to enjoy more-plentiful oysters from various nearby farms, with each type of oyster offering its own unique taste.

“People can help the bay just by eating shellfish: from the raw bar to the reef,” said Andersen. “Local sustainable seafood is becoming an abundant option for diners.”

Local restaurants are now readying for the busy season, which means more oysters eaten and more shells to collect. Current partners include: Ship Bottom Shellfish; The Arlington, in Ship Bottom; Howard’s Restaurant in Beach Haven Gardens; Delaware Oyster House in Beach Haven Terrace; Blue Water Café in Haven Beach; Stefano’s in North Beach Haven; Bistro 14, Parker’s Garage, The Black Whale, Tuckers Tavern and Triton in Beach Haven; The Old Causeway and Mud City Crab House in Manahawkin; and, beginning Memorial Day, Boulevard Clams in Surf City.

For more information on the Oyster Recycling Program, visit followtheshell on Instagram and Twitter, or jettylife.com/pages/jetty-oyster-recycling-program, or look for information about #followtheshell at the participating restaurants.

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