Maryland Oyster Shell Recycling Alliance Launched

posted in: Chesapeake Bay News | 0

The Oyster Recovery Partnership launched Maryland’s first Oyster Shell Recycling Alliance in Baltimore, MD together with more than 20 restaurants, catering companies and seafood wholesalers, the regional oyster shucking community and volunteers. The Alliance will focus on collecting used oyster and clam shells from restaurants and caterers in the Baltimore/Annapolis/Washington, DC metro area.

Oyster shell is a limited resource which provides crucial natural habitat for new oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Shells are used exclusively by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point hatchery for its oyster setting process.

Local oyster shuckers, watermen and Oyster Recovery Partnership staff are conducting ongoing pickups delivered to three dumpsters in the region. The shell are then transported via Oyster Recovery Partnership vehicles and deposited to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Horn Point Lab Hatchery in Cambridge, MD for aging. About one year after collection, the hatchery attaches small oysters (“spat”) to the shells and they are replanted into the Bay on strategically-designated areas by the Oyster Recovery Partnership in cooperation with our many partners including the UMCES, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Army Corp of Engineers, University of Maryland, Maryland Watermen Association and Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Over the last 18 months, the pilot program collected more than 3,000 bushels or 1.5 million shells from local catering companies and on-call pickups. The successful pilot immediately attracted 20 high-profile restaurants and caterers who are now official Alliance partners. The goal is to expand the collection points across Maryland and Washington, DC. It is estimated that approximately 15 million new oysters planted be planted back into the Chesapeake Bay as a result of this initiative thus far.

“We believe we can collect about 5,000 bushels in our first Alliance year, enough shell to provide substrate for 25 million spat on shell,” said Vernon Johnson, a nationally-recognized oyster shucking competitor and Alliance volunteer. “Whether it’s one oyster or one million, every oyster shell makes a difference.”

The Alliance’s 2010 Season is sponsored by a generous donation by Maryland citizen Doug Legum and matching grant funds provided by DNR and NOAA. Oyster Recovery Partnership is currently seeking a 2011 Season sponsor.

Only a handful of other States currently have shell collection programs, including South Carolina and New Hampshire. Each state has customized their shell collection process to take advantage of the local oyster consumption habits. In the case of Maryland, a majority of shells are generated from catered events like Bull and Oyster Roasts.

Over the last century, the Chesapeake Bay has seen a dramatic decline of its native oyster population. A healthy oyster reef not only filters the Bay’s dirty waters, but also provides crucial habitat for an underwater community that furnishes valuable life support for blue crabs and fish. According officials ORP processed, cleaned and transported 60,000 bushels of shell in 2009 that was in turn used to plant more than 650 million baby oysters back to the Bay.

Alliance Partners


Boatyard Bar & Grill
Middleton’s Tavern
Federal House
Rams Head Tavern
McGarvey’s Saloon


Atlantic Catering
McCormick & Schmick
Bob’s Seafood
Michael’s Eight Avenue
Café Hon
Harbor Court Hotel
Ocean Pride
Nicks Cross Street
Phillips Seafood
Nick’s Fish House
Mama’s on the Half Shell
Woodberry Kitchen


W.H. Harris Seafood


Old Ebbitt Grill

Oyster shells are collected into 5 gallon containers with lids. Full containers, free of trash, should be assessable for easy pick-up. ORP requests a weekly minimum of 5 containers to be a participant for regular pickup. Individual citizen participation is also encouraged. There are several places in Maryland to drop used oyster shell.

Visit to learn more.  Anyone interested in participating can sign up on the ORP website or contact Bryan Gomes on 410.990.4970.

source: ORP press release

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