Oyster shells sell for top dollar as biologists scramble to protect shellfish beds
The State, August 23rd, 2022
Sitting atop the crow’s nest of a small barge, the boat captain shielded his eyes from the July sun and pitched his gaze to the commotion below. The hum of heavy equipment and the clatter of oyster shells broke the morning’s silence as work crews piled thousands of pounds of dried shells on the deck, eventually creating a mound 12 feet high. When the last shell had been placed on the pile, the captain maneuvered the barge away from Russ Point Landing and down a tidal creek near Fripp Island on a mission to save wild oysters. The state-sponsored work was part of an effort to protect imperiled oyster populations by returning shells from restaurants, backyard oyster roasts and other sources to tidelands. Putting shells back in the mud rebuilds reefs, the refuges baby oysters need to grow and multiply. But efforts to restore oyster reefs in places like Beaufort County face a threat that could affect virtually anyone who depends on the harvest of wild oysters. South Carolina and nearby states are having trouble finding the shells they need to put back in tidal areas to restore oyster populations. Play VideoDuration 0:51 How oyster shells are planted to give oyster larva a place to grow Oyster shells from Beaufort County are washed into existing reefs by a contractor hired by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources that offers a place for oyster larva to grow.
BY DREW MARTIN