Oyster eaters consume oysters at local raw bars, events and restaurants. Typically what remains is thrown in the trash and ends up at a landfill. The oyster shell is the best base for the creation of new oysters. It is a wasted resource that is in limited supply for restoration purposes. ShellAware has been diverting oyster shell from the trash since 2011 in partnership with the Oyster Recovery Partnership.
Oyster shell is collected by ShellAware on a regular basis from our partners in order to maintain their high standards for excellence. The participants receive free marketing material to inform their customers about the program to build awareness of the need to collect all the shell possible for restoration purposes. This marketing also engages with the oyster eater and provides a app for them to get connected with the program and support the project.
The shell is placed on a pile to cure over the course of 6 to 12 months. This process removes pathogens, organic material and other contamination present in the raw shell. The sun bleaches them a bright white. All of this is a natural process requiring little to no fossil fuel input enabling our project to maintain a negative carbon footprint. The ecosystem service provided by the entire restoration activity will also provide carbon offset benefits as well, so a carbon footprint baseline is part of the verification process.
The cured shell is washed and placed in setting tanks where oyster larvae or spat are added for them to attach to the shell. This process takes place on-site or remotely from the oyster hatchery if necessary enabling oyster restoration to take place basically anywhere in the Delaware Inland Bays. With this technology in place oyster restoration can be achieve by private homeowners that are concerned with water quality in the bays and are interested in taking action that does not rely on government or it's agents.
After the shell is seeded it is placed in an appropriate container for application to the private docks, marinas, and other manmade structures around the bays. ShellAware creates a unique design for each customer location to make use of every available square foot of space for oyster placement. Taking into account the many requirements of local, state, and federal regulations regarding these actions. Each step in the process is measured to verify the water quality benefits that the oyster restoration project will generate.
The oysters are for sanctuary/restoration purposes only. They will never be harvested for human consumption. Each participant is required to enter into a 5 year lease agreement for the space that contains the oyster sanctuary, however each of the containers can be moved to a new location if necessary. The oysters can live for many years and grow to the size of a dinner plate. Our goal is to continue to provide these ecosystem services to the Delaware Inland and Delaware Bays for decades growing the largest oysters on the East Coast since the 1800's.
Each location will be measured to retrieve a high level of data which is mandatory to achieve verifiable ecosystem service credits. These activities will adhere to rigorous, robust scientific requirements that are accepted as the best management practices by The Nature Conservancy for ecosystem service restoration projects involving oysters and the latest international standards applied to measure carbon offset projects. Applying these standards enables this work to provide credible scientific data for other interested practitioners of ecosystem service restoration services.
The verified water quality benefits will be marketed to oyster eaters at the participating oyster shell recycling locations. Each individual will be given the opportunity to be part of the solution by asking non participating oyster providers to become ShellAware in Delaware.