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BALTIMORE, Oct. 1, 2013 – The Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) tonight announced record results for its shell recycling program, numbers that reflect an accelerated commitment by restaurants and other businesses to restore Chesapeake Bay oysters and a record amount of recycled shell available for restoration work.
As of September 30, 109 restaurants, caterers and seafood distributors have joined the Shell Recycling Alliance (SRA), making a commitment to recycle shell and promote oyster recovery at their business. Businesses in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, and are now members of the SRA. So far this year, these businesses have recycled 435 tons of shell.
“Recycled shell is a vital component to our restoration program. As we continue to grow the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Oyster hatchery program, it is important to increase the amount of recycled shell to keep pace with the number of oysters we can raise,” said Stephan Abel, executive director the ORP. “The recycled shell that was collected this year means about over 6 million individual shells were recycled. Those shells give us the potential to plant over 60 million oysters on oyster reefs in the Bay.”
The SRA was created in 2009 to help hatchery efforts and 22 members signed on when recycling began in 2010. The 2013 membership reflects a 51 percent increase from 2012, when there were 72 members. There was also a 50 percent increase in recycled shell from last year. Overall, the SRA has recycled 1,200 tons of shell (29,500 bushels or 1,750 yd3) in four years, enough for homes for nearly 150 million oysters.
In 2013, the ORP also expanded efforts to have individual citizens recycle shells. With the help of local governments, 26 new public shell recycling facilities were made available in six counties in Maryland. In addition, the State of Maryland passed new legislation that provides businesses and individuals a $1 tax credit for every bushel of shell that they recycle.
“We need shell and we need businesses and individuals committed to recycling in order to continue growing our oyster restoration program,” Abel said. “What’s really exciting is that we are seeing big increases in shell recycling every year. We believe that means business and bay-area residents are realizing that they have an important role in restoring oysters to the Chesapeake Bay. We hope we continue to see significant gains in participants and recycled shell each year.”
ORP also announced the 2013 winners of the Its My Bay stewardship awards, recognizing individuals and businesses that have taken extraordinary steps to help revitalize the bay oyster population and preserve the Chesapeake Bay’s unique cultural heritage.
The 2013 winners are:
Outstanding Corporate Partnership Awards: Finlandia Vodka and Flying Dog Brewery
Outstanding Shell Recycling Alliance Award: Mike’s Crab House
Vernon P. Johnson Exceptional Citizen Stewardship Award: Del. Stephen Lafferty
Mermaid Kiss, ORP’s annual oyster celebration, also kicked off “From the Bay, For the Bay” dining event, sponsored by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and ORP. During this week-long from October 5-12, participating restaurants donate $1 to ORP for every Maryland seafood dinner sold. It’s a way restaurants honor and support local watermen and Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, while diners have a chance to enjoy the state’s fine seafood while patronizing restaurants that share their commitment to the Bay. The list of participating restaurants from Philadelphia to Northern Virginia can be found at http://www.marylandseafood.org/fromthebay.html.
ORP’s restoration efforts are aimed at restoring oyster habitat and populations in 20 Bay tributaries by 2025 in response to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama. In addition to shell recycling, ORP is involved in oyster research, reef replanting, education, community outreach, and programs to assist watermen and aquaculture.