South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement Program

A couple of Saturdays ago on November 12th, I volunteered for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and took part in the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement Program (SCORE). This is a program that collects used oyster shells from around Charleston and reintroduces them into the habitats from where they were originally taken from. Due to the high local consumption rates of oysters, humans are taking a significant portion away from what would naturally become part of the oyster bed. A program such as this one became necessary for the continuing health of local oyster communities. This is an environmentally sustainable program because oyster beds rely on a constant supply of oyster shells to support new oysters and currently is at a state where humans need to start intervening and minimize their own impact. Oyster beds need shells because new larvae is constantly attaching itself to existing shells. Without the presence of these existing shells, new larvae lose places to attach themselves and consequently leads to a decreasing number of oysters. Oysters are extremely important organisms because of their impressive water filtering abilities and their important role in the local Charleston marsh ecosystem. Without oysters we would certainly see several possibly irreversible consequences to this intricate ecosystem. Losing oysters would devastate these existing oyster beds and lead to the deaths of the organisms who rely on these beds for nutrients and shelter.

The step of the program that I took part in was preparing crates of post-human consumption oyster shells to be added to current natural oyster beds. This process involved shoveling a large pile of shells and distributing it among many crates. A mesh cover was zip tied to the top of each filled crate. I ended up doing much of the shoveling and experienced first hand one of the worst smells I’ve ever smelt and broke quite a sweat. Non-the-less this volunteer experience had valuable and positive affects on the local environment and myself as a person. This was just one step of this program. The next step involves taking these crate via boat and adding these shells to oyster beds in need of shells. The step before the crate filling involves collecting the used oyster shells from around Charleston. This is possibly one of the hardest steps due to public education and simply spreading the word. Most restaurants that go though high quantities of oysters are aware of this program and know who to contact for it to be picked up. Most everyone else though are unaware of this program and instead throw out their oyster shells, and essentially rob local oyster beds of necessary shells. This is why spreading words about programs like this is very important and partly up to us citizens and not just the local and federal government. I will be certainly looking forward to future volunteer opportunities focused on helping any of the precious local ecosystems. I believe that anything that people could do to directly help the environment is worth their time because everything in our currently lives goes back to the environment and that is something that will never change.


5 thoughts on “South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement Program

  1. This is so cool! I had no idea how much eating oysters can effect our environment, especially with the amount of oysters we eat down here in the low country. I didn’t know that by taking the oysters out of the ocean we were destroying the oyster beds, which are reused by new spawn becoming a vital piece of our coastal ecosystem. I am so glad that you informed us about this because it will encourage me to be more aware of what I do with my oyster shells and how I can help with this issue.

  2. That’s really awesome that you got to directly contribute to rebuilding part of our coastal environment! It’s very unfortunate that the high consumption and demand for oysters has negatively impacted local marshes, but it’s great that you and other volunteers have taken time to give back to our oyster beds, rather than take away. Since the wellbeing of oyster beds is essential for the health of our coastal ecosystem, I agree that it is very important that people are educated about this issue and that programs are in place to restore them. Maybe the current regulations that protect our coastal environment should even be enhanced to reduce the harm caused by harvesting oysters for human consumption? Thank you for sharing! I will definitely look for more opportunities to get involved and contribute to the preservation of these precious Lowcountry oyster beds.

  3. I thought your post was very interesting! Personally, I did not know much about oysters or the impacts of consuming them. I was unaware that the shells were so important for oyster growth, and in turn our marsh ecosystem as a whole. I hope word gets out about this issue around Charleston and other costal cities that are experiencing oyster deficiency as well. I think it is great that this program provides locals direct participation with our coasts.

  4. So glad you wrote about this, I don’t think a lot of people know about oysters other than when eating them. I feel like an easy way to get the word out would be to email local seafood places and just notify them and maybe they would like to help in the restoration process because they rely on oysters for food for people to eat. Everyone has their part and if these restaurants want to stay in business and keep selling oysters they should know what consequences and how fragile the ecosystems are that they are taking nutrients from.

  5. Thanks for your hard work in helping to replenish our oyster beds, Drew! I’m really glad it was a valuable experience for you.

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