Billions of oyster shells are shucked and thrown away every year by packers, restaurants and consumers. Most end up in landfills, while others are ground for road material, chicken feed and other uses.
Fortunately, marine science and environmental organizations, restaurants and oyster farmers are banding together in public-private programs to conserve shell. These efforts are producing shell to create new oyster reefs and support aquaculture hatcheries with substrate that promotes growth of oyster larvae.
Scientists estimate that one finely ground oyster shell provides enough substrate to grow 120 oysters. Put another way, 50,000 pounds of oyster shells provide enough material to grow almost 200 million oysters. Equivalent to 1,500,000 bushels, that’s more than six times as many wild oysters than were harvested in our home state of Maryland last year.