Sep 26, 2023 - Climate

Tampa Bay Watch turns food waste into oyster gardens

Illustration of an oyster platter in a pelican's mouth.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Slurping down oysters isn't entirely shellfish thanks to a local program.

Driving the news: Shells for Shorelines, a collaboration between Tampa Bay Watch, the Gulf Region Oyster Network and local restaurants, has officially launched after a successful pilot run.

  • It recycles discarded oyster shells to rejuvenate critical oyster reef habitats, so hitting the raw bar can be good for the environment.

Why it matters: The initiative turns food waste into oyster shell bags and vertical oyster gardens, which prevent erosion and grow more oysters.

  • Aside from being delicious, oysters filter our water and create habitats for our marine life.

How it works: Restaurants save used oyster shells in designated 5-gallon buckets provided by Tampa Bay Watch.

  • The nonprofit's staff and volunteers collect the shells and take them to its station at Fort De Soto to clean and cure for a minimum of 90 days.
  • The shell bags and vertical oyster gardens they create are distributed throughout the Tampa Bay estuary.

By the numbers: Since launching the pilot program in February 2022, seven restaurants have contributed more than 102,000 pounds of oyster shells, Tampa Bay Watch tells Axios.

Participating restaurants: OysterCatchers, Crabby Bill's in St. Pete Beach and Indian Rocks Beach, The Helm Coastal Fare and Provisions, CoCo's Crush Bar and Grill in North Clearwater Beach, The Oyster Bar and The Island Grille and Raw Bar.


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