Oyster Shell Recycling Program

Oyster Shell Recycling logo

The Offer Your Shell To Enhance Restoration (O.Y.S.T.E.R) recycling pilot program have the following participating restaurants, including the Cutting Board and Cosse's Place in Milton. They have committed to recycling their shells for future restoration projects. Members of the Conservation Corps of the Emerald Coast (CCEC), part of Franklin's Promise Coalition, are making the regular collections.

Collected shell is then “cured” (left to the elements to eliminate soft tissue and bacteria) for future use in local oyster reef restoration projects. This helps reduce the amount of shell taken to the landfill and ultimately benefits local oyster reef restoration projects. When the shell is placed in the water, baby oysters, called “spat” are attracted to the clean shell and create or enhance oyster reefs. These reefs provide habitat and food for red drum, speckled trout, gulf sturgeon and other marine organisms.

This program is from Santa Rosa County's Grants & Special Programs and Environmental Departments. The collecting method and outreach materials were developed based on local projects such as Keep Pensacola Beautiful in Escambia County, the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance in Okaloosa and Walton counties and the Alabama Coastal Foundation Oyster Shell recycling program in Baldwin and Mobile counties in Alabama. The effort is a part of a broader Oyster Habitat Restoration Project funded through the RESTORE Act Direct Component Funds, as a result of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

To date, 14.5 tons (29,147 lbs.) of shell has been collected, far exceeding the original goal of 2400 lbs by 2022.  The success of the program is dependent upon our partners and volunteers who will assist in bringing the cured oyster shells back into the waters of Santa Rosa County.

 The PENSACOLA EAST & BLACKWATER BAYS INTERTIDAL & SUBTIDAL OYSTER REEF MAPPING & ASSESSMENT final report is complete and can be downloaded from here: Final Report.  This data on where oysters occur and their condition is a critical piece of data needed to inform restoration.

There was a lunch and learn webinar conducted on February 28, 2022 about mapping and the shell recycling program. The webinar can be found in the following link: Webinar Link.

For more information about becoming a participating restaurant or if you are interested in volunteering, contact Chris Verlinde at the Environmental Department of Santa Rosa County at 850-981-2083 or email at christinav@santarosa.fl.gov.

Curing shells in landfill 2021

“Collecting these oyster shells is investing in the future, with the dried shell used to construct oyster reefs, which promotes ecosystem health and marine life. It’s giving back to our planet while paying it forward to the next generation, and that makes it all worthwhile.” --​Reggie Miller, CCEC Member

This project was paid for with federal funding from the Department of Treasury under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act). The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Treasury.