Restaurants are powering restoration of coastal Louisiana’s oyster reefs

On August 25, 2017, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in conjunction with Shell Oil Company announced a major grant award for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) to build its second oyster reef using recycled oyster shell from New Orleans area restaurants. The $250,000 award will be used to build a half-mile long living shoreline along the western edge of Barataria Bay.

Tying the restoration of the natural environment to restaurants is logical, since the word “restaurant” means “place of restoration”. This harks back to the start of the restaurant industry, when Monsieur Boulanger opened the world’s first modern-style restaurant in Paris, France back in 1765. It served only soups, and its sign proclaimed, “Boulanger débite des restaurants divins” (“Boulanger sells restoratives fit for the gods”). At the time, the word “restaurant” referred to the rich broths that were claimed to restore one’s health.

We have collected a mountain of oyster shell from New Orleans restaurants. With this support, CRCL will use the recycled shell—shell that would have ended up in landfills—to build another reef,” said CRCL Executive Director, Kimberly Reyher. “This is important because oyster reefs act as speed bumps for storms — they provide an important line of defense for our city.”

CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program began in 2014, and has collected over 3,000 tons of oyster shell from restaurants in the Greater New Orleans area. CRCL, with help from The Nature Conservancy and funding from Shell, NFWF and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, constructed its first oyster reef using recycled shell in the fall of 2016. It is a half-mile long reef located in St. Bernard Parish’s Biloxi Marsh, and is already showing signs of becoming a living shoreline. On a recent monitoring trip, oyster spat – baby oysters – were found settling on the reef – a good sign for future oyster growth.

The new reef will use similar construction to the earlier reef. It will use Gabion baskets to hold the shell in place allowing it become a living shoreline over time. The reef will use approximately 800 tons of recycled oyster shell.

A living shoreline is a dynamic barrier against erosion. This new reef will help slow land loss by lessening the effects of wave energy, filter water and, overtime, may even build land behind it,” said Dr. Deborah Visco Abibou, CRCL Restoration Programs Director. “It will soon become great habitat for fish, crabs, birds and, of course, oysters. Not only will this new reef have tremendous benefit for the shoreline and wildlife, it will also allow us to engage hundreds of volunteers who will help create a more resilient coast.

The reef will be constructed in the Barataria Basin in Jefferson Parish along a marsh land bridge that separates Creole Bay and Hackberry Bay in late 2019. Along with the grant from NFWF and Shell, the reef is also funded, in part, by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Founded in 1988, The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana is the longest standing statewide organization driving bold drive bold, science-based action to rebuild Coastal Louisiana through outreach, restoration and advocacy. With the support of members and volunteers, CRCL advocates for strong coastal policies and implements restoration projects across coastal Louisiana. Visit crcl.org.

See CRCL website.

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