Southeast
South Carolina Oyster Reef

Oyster Shell Recycling: The Pearl In South Carolina Renewable Resources

Oysters are normally associated with backyard roasts, but this seafood delicacy provides much more than a treat for the taste buds. Oysters play a vital role in the Lowcountry’s ecosystem.

Oysters are known for their ability to filter water and improve water quality by filtering up to 2.5 gallons of water per hour. They also build reefs that provide crucial habitats for marine life. Those reefs also act as natural breakwaters and protect the shoreline by controlling erosion.

The popularity of backyard oyster roasts and by-the-bushel retail sales have created a critical shortage of oyster shells because typically the shells are not recycled and often end up in landfills. It has become increasingly important to recycle and return the shucked shells back to the estuary because oyster larvae need to attach to hard surfaces. By depositing shells back into the water the larvae can attach to the recycled oyster shell and develop.

Recycling shells helps restore, preserve, and enhance the state’s inshore marine habitat. To help this effort, money raised at this year’s Annual Daniel Island Kids Fishing Tournament was donated to the Coastal Conservation Association of South Carolina (CCA-SC). The funds will be earmarked for their recycling of oyster shells program.

Daniel Island resident Fred Danziger, the tournament’s ccommittee chairman, said it was a “no brainer” donating the funds collected at this year’s event.

“There are three principles that we in the Daniel Island Inshore Fishing Club adhere to in our vision statement,” he added. “They are to promote education, conservation, and social activities among its members. The CCA East Cooper Chapter’s primary function is to apply the principles of conservation in maintaining our fisheries in the Lowcountry. Specifically on DI, the CCA works with the SCDNR (South Carolina Department of Natural Resources).”

“This year, hopefully students at Bishop England High School and the Daniel Island School will participate in the oyster shell recycling program,” Danziger continued.

Residents can bring their oyster shells to public oyster recycling sites located throughout the region. After the shells are gathered for recycling, they are quarantined for six months. Before they are returned to South Carolina waters, the shells are tested to make sure they don’t contain harmful bacteria. Some of the recycled shells will be added to the existing oyster reef on Daniel Island.

CCA-SC State Habitat Chairman Gary Keisler, a former Daniel Island resident, stresses the importance of recycling shells.

“We are getting anywhere from 30 to 50 thousand shells a month from restaurants downtown but there’s a real shortage, so the state still has to purchase shells from other states to put in our waters because we need to recreate their habitat,” explained Keisler.

The organization will be depositing more shells on Daniel Island in the future and Keisler would like to see community members, especially young residents, get involved with the program. Daniel Island residents are encouraged to join the CCA-SC East Cooper Chapter. The yearly cost to join CCA is $35 for adults and $10 for children, however you don’t need to join to volunteer. To find out more about CCA-SC and explore volunteering opportunities check out their website at ccasouthcarolina.com.

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