11/20/09 — Oyster shell expansion still growing

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Oyster shell expansion still growing

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 20, 2009 1:47 PM

MOREHEAD CITY -- The oyster shell recycling program that has been responsible for the construction of several off-shore reefs along North Carolina's coast is continuing to grow.

Now Durham County residents are getting into the act of recycling shells and another new reef site has been unveiled by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. Durham County and the NCDMF have created shell drop off locations at each of the county's four waste collection facilities. The first installation took place at the Rougemont Convenience Center on Wednesday.

The drop-off centers will be the most recent additions to a growing number of spots in North Carolina where the public can help reduce the landfill waste flow and restore oyster reefs by recycling oyster shells.

Additionally, a new state law went into effect Oct. 1 that makes it illegal to place oyster shells in landfills.

"Durham County is very appreciative of the state of the Division of Marine Fisheries for partnering with our organization to comply with the recent statewide disposal ban," said waste reduction specialist Brian Haynesworth. "We are very excited about our latest service that is easily accessible and will help reduce solid waste disposal in the county."

When oysters spawn, the larvae need a hard substrate on which to attach and grow. Oysters prefer to attach to shell material.

"It is our collective responsibility as a state to collect these shells and ensure that they are placed back into coastal waters to provide a place for baby oysters to attach and grow," said NCDMF director Louis Daniel.

The NCDMF's goal is to continue to expand oyster shell recycling sites across the state -- and to gain local government support to meet this goal. People should also be aware that they can also recycle other calcium-based shells, such as clams or mussels.

The Oyster Shell Recycling Program started in the fall of 2003 to establish public places where people could donate their shells. The program has grown from collecting 711 bushels of oyster shells in 2003 to more than 32,000 bushels in 2007 and 23,600 in 2008.

In October, the NCDMF announced the location of its newest artificial reef off the coast of Brunswick County. The reef will rest approximately 2.5 miles off shore and will have a radius of nearly 500 yards.

There are currently 19 counties that have shell recycling sites. What originally started out as a coastal phenomenon has moved inland over recent years with the addition of sites in Pender, Wilson, Greene and Pitt Counties.

For a full list of the 125 recycling sites log on to www.ncdmf.net/shellfish/recycle4.