CHARLESTOWN–Next time you shuck a shell at an icy oyster bar, make sure you ask where the leftovers are being dumped. Rhode Island's Nature Conservancy has received $46,000 in funds to recycle shells and restore the oyster population off of Charlestown's water. Your discarded bivalve can help.
While driveways and dumps are full of smashed shells, they can be put to better use by being reintroduced into local waters for oysterbeds as cultch . The Conservancy's grant, funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association or NOAA's community restoration grant program, will use donated shells leftover from local raw bars to supply shell-starved waters. The first phase of this "Shell Recycling Program" will launch in January and the Conservancy is looking for volunteers. Local business already signed up for donations are Hemenway's Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar, The Pier in Newport, McCormick and Schmick's in Providence, the Matunuck Oyster Bar, and Providence Oyster Bar.
Once a week in January volunteers will pick up bins given to restaurants. The Conservancy is also collecting 120 cubic yards of shell material to use for the restoration component and representatives from The Nature Conservancy are signing up any restaurants who serve oysters on the half shell, specifically, the common Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica). The oysters in their natural habitat were once vital ecosystem engineers
For more information pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times