Earlier this year, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) partnered with Midtown Oyster Bar to help with their oyster shell recycling program. The program originally started with Matunuck Oyster Bar as part of an effort to “boost fish habitats in Rhode Island waters” says Tim Mooney, Marketing and Communications Manager at the TNC.
The sight is overwhelming, really – a mammoth pile of thousands of shells dwarfing volunteers as they empty full buckets of mollusc remnants. At first, you may think these volunteers are just garbage collectors, but actually, the oyster shells they’ve gathered will be left out to dry and cure until they are ready to be put back into the water to nourish aquatic habitats. There, baby oysters can latch onto the dried oyster shells and begin to grow anew.
The concept of recycling is not new to the Newport eatery. Charlie Holder, operations manager at the establishment, said that they had tried to engage in similar programs, but the logistics did not work out as well. When they were approached by TNC, Charlie says they agreed to get back into the practice because the nonprofit made the process of collection and pick-up easier.
Currently, the restaurant recycles about 2,000 shells a week in the off season and 6,000 shells per week during the summer months, averaging about 200,000 oysters per year. With that amount of yearly oyster consumption from a single restaurant alone, it’s no wonder these creatures need help regenerating in their natural habitat. Charlie says that the restaurant realized that to have a successful business, they needed to care about responsible oyster farming, too.
“Being a restaurant that relies so heavily on local oyster farms, it has become imperative for us to try to join forces with the farmers to find better ways of replenishing the oyster beds needed for oysters to grow...it is becoming increasingly important that everyone in the restaurant industry do their part to help the environment.”
To volunteer with this effort, contact TNC scientist Will Helt at William.Helt@TNC.org.