In 2008, Galveston Bay lost more than 50 percent of its oyster habitat to Hurricane Ike. Seeking solutions to this crisis, The Galveston Bay Foundation partnered with a local restaurant to turn discarded oyster shells into restored habitats for marine life.
The program is supported by government grants and private donations. While it started in 2011 by partnering with one restaurant, Tommy’s Restaurant Oyster Bar, the program has since grown to include 10 restaurants in the Galveston Bay area. To date, they have recycled 1,072 tons of oyster shells.
The foundation collects shells from the restaurants and lets them sit on land for six months to get rid of any non-native bacteria or pathogens which could be detrimental to the bay. When they’re ready for placement, the shells are used to build breakwaters along the shoreline which prevent erosion and provide habitats for baby oysters, native fish, shrimp, and crab species.
The program is great for the bay, but it also benefits the restaurants. Recycling the shells means lower waste disposal costs for local businesses and a thriving bay attracts more tourists to the area to patron these sites.
Looking forward, The Galveston Bay Foundation hopes to improve the scale and efficiency of its program as well as expand to other coastal communities in need.