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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Martin County

Restaurants participate in oyster restoration project
Rating: -1 / 5 (9 votes)  
Posted: 2014 May 09 - 06:54

By Alisha McDarris

For Hometown News

STUART -- Every week some 500 pounds of oyster shells are collected and cleaned so they can be returned to the river thanks to volunteers, local restaurants, and a brand new partnership between the Florida Oceanographic Society and the city of Stuart.

In fact, just last Saturday volunteers gathered near Flagler Park to deploy more than 5,000 pounds of oyster shells into the river in hopes of promoting the health and well-being of local waterways and new oyster habitats.

FOS has been involved in oyster and reef restoration since 2006, but the city has just recently joined them in their mission to inspire environmental stewardship of Florida's coastal ecosystems. They have partnered together to recycle oyster shells and restore oyster habitats in the St. Lucie River.

"It was just a good fit," said Mary Kindel, recycling and conservation coordinator for the city. "We want to keep our river healthy."

The city provides restaurants with branded buckets, coasters and bookmarks and recruits local eateries to participate by collecting used and leftover shells from oysters, clams and mussels. FOS picks up those shells, dries and cures them, then bags them and places them in strategic locations along the river where they encourage the growth of oyster reefs.

There are other options for doing so, but they can be expensive and hard to come by according to FOS's Vincent Encomio, Ph.D. Besides, oysters prefer to attach to a natural oyster shell as opposed to reefs constructed out of other materials.

"Oyster shells are the best material for constructing new oyster reefs," said Dr. Encomio.

The reefs do more than offer oysters a place to live; they improve biodiversity by providing a home for many aquatic species and stabilize shorelines that are at risk of erosion.

But that's not all they do. A full-grown oyster can also help with water quality, purifying between 20 to 50 gallons of water per day.

"Oysters are one of our main filters in our estuaries," Dr. Encomio said.

FOS collects about a ton of shells each month, precious building materials that would otherwise be going to a landfill if it weren't for local businesses and organizations looking out for the environment's best interest.

"There are many entities coming together to restore an important resource," Dr. Encomio said.

Restaurants participating in the effort include Conchy Joe's in Jensen Beach and Fresh Catch, Mulligan's, Riverwalk Café and Spoto's Oyster Bar and Grill in Stuart.

The city hopes to recruit more restaurants for the program and will list those that participate on their website, www.cityofstuart.us.

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