Oyster Recycling and Restoration Program
March 28, 2017Local Solution to a Global Problem: Chiles Restaurant Group Leads the Charge on Gulf Coast Oyster Recycle & Restoration Project in Manatee County
The Chiles Restaurant Group has partnered with an incredible group of non-profit, commercial, and governmental public-private partners who are leading the charge in a new Gulf Coast Oyster Recycle & Restoration Project (GCORR) aimed at collecting and reusing cast off oyster and clam shells to help restore the environment.
"Facets of this project include collection through businesses, bagging and placement through Manatee County educational and volunteer efforts and marine ecology research." Chiles Restaurant Group Chief Operating Officer Robert Baugh said. "Ultimately, we will take what is normally discarded and use it in a manner that is most conducive to growth and development of new oyster grounds in the surrounding local waters."
GCORR is funded with a $5,000 grant awarded by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to initiate a 1-year, oyster shell pilot program for Manatee County. One of the goals is to increase oyster shell recycling county-wide and then have it expand to nearby counties. The implementation team includes: the Chiles Restaurant Group, Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START), several departments of Manatee County government, University of Florida IFAS/Extension and the Gulf Shellfish Institute.
The Chiles Restaurant Group is a family of three waterfront restaurants – Mar Vista Dockside, The Sandbar and The Beach House Restaurant – located on Florida’s West Coast where the taste of Old Florida comes to life. Since their inceptions, each restaurant has served traditional gulf seafood dishes and the finest local Florida fare. But in more recent years, the restaurants have become a pioneer in the sustainable tourism industry, setting the bar with their constellation of sustainable practices, products and projects.
Starting this month, the group began facilitating the collection, cleaning, and transportation of used clam and oyster shells from its three seafood restaurants to the local Manatee County Preserve to aid in restoration of oyster/clam habitat. The Gulf Coast Oyster Recycle & Restoration Project specifically involves oyster restoration, but its execution will positively impact many other aspects of daily lives by means of providing a hatchery for new oysters, reducing shoreline erosion, improving water quality, and revitalizing the oyster and other marine habitat to increase the local food supply. One oyster can filter 9.6 gallons of salt or estuarine water in one day, creating cleaner environments for swimming and recreational uses
"We'll reduce our footprint in landfills and provide the opportunity to educate our community, promote growth of this seafood commodity and most importantly support the increase in our local water quality," Baugh said. "Not only will this eventually evolve into the potential to harvest real local oysters and clams but will also provide jobs and promote additional Aquaculture opportunities while eliminating tons of shell waste from landfills."
The Gulf Coast Oyster Recycle & Restoration Project is only the most recent of sustainable initiatives that the Chiles Restaurant Group has been a leader. In addition, they have made significant strides in its efforts to be "plastic-free" by facilitating the County’s implementation of Single Stream Recycling, and a dramatic decrease in the use of plastic straws, foam containers, saltine cracker wrappers and other non-biodegradable products normally associated with Food Service operations. Next steps include the introduction of a complete line of eco-friendly "to go" containers and reusable packing crates for produce and seafood.