Local Students and Restaurants Step Up for the Bays!

Ocean View, DE – Local students and restaurants have started 2019 on the right foot! Representatives from Chesapeake & Maine, SoDel Concepts, C.A.P.E. for Tomorrow, and Sussex Technical High School have spent their new year volunteering time and energy to prepare oyster shells that will be used to restore shorelines and reintroduce the American Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) to the waters of Delaware’s Inland Bays.

On January 7th, Chesapeake & Maine bagged over 7.7 tons of spent oyster shell and on February 5th, SoDel Concepts (the parent company behind Bluecoast, Catch 54, Fish On) also bagged approximately 7.7 tons! Both of these restaurants are doing double duty as well: both bagging the shell and providing it as participating restaurants in the Center’s “Don’t Chuck Your Schucks” program.

Volunteers from Chesapeake & Maine pose for a photo after a long day of work on January 7th.

“Our oyster and clam shell recycling program was formalized in 2014 and now collects from over 20 local restaurants.” according to Bob Collins, Program Manager for the Center. “These restaurants are able to give back to their community in a unique way.” In 2018 alone, the program collected just under 4,000 bushels of empty shell!

Local students have been involved in this effort too! C.A.P.E. for Tomorrow (a Cape Henlopen High School club that promotes compassion for animals and protecting the environment) joined the effort as well as students from Sussex Technical High School who traveled from Georgetown to bag shell as part of their Environmental Tech Area field trip on the topic of oyster recycling. Together, the school groups bagged an impressive 14 tons of shells! In addition to their volunteer labor, C.A.P.E for Tomorrow students graciously donated $200 to the Center from their winter fundraiser funds!

Nate Linton from C.A.P.E. for Tomorrow tosses a completed bag on top of the ever-growing pile of bags destined for reforestation projects.

The Don’t Chuck Your Shucks and shell bagging projects are two different steps in the same initiative. When you visit a participating restaurant and order oysters or clams, restaurant staff will separate your discarded shell into a shell specific receptacle. Once collected, the shell is allowed to “cure” in the sun for a minimum of six months and then bagged for use in bay-friendly restoration projects. One such project is the Read Avenue Living Shoreline planned for Dewey Beach.

Moving forward, the Center will be hosting bagging events for local organizations and corporate groups. “This continued support allows us to install living shorelines (a technique of shoreline stabilization engineered using natural materials) and even create test oyster reefs to determine best tactics for enhancing native oyster populations in the Inland Bays,” says Center Project Manager, Victoria Spice.

When asked why they would want to volunteer on their day off or pass up a shift at the restaurant to bag oyster and clam shells, Chesapeake & Maine General Manager Justine Leaman explained: “Dogfish thrives on being part of local initiatives that help better our community and environment. It’s incredible to see oyster shells leave our restaurant as waste and be re-purposed for the better. After all, the better the Bays are, the better business is!”

The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays is a non-profit organization established in 1994, and is one of 28 National Estuary Programs. With its many partners, the CIB works to preserve, protect and restore Delaware’s Inland Bays–the water that flows into them, and the watershed around them.

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