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.