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Oyster shells needed for Sapelo Island research
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How you can help

For more information about donating oysters shells, call Casey Sanders at (912) 264-7323
or Jeff Spratt at (912) 437-2161, or e-mail or
DARIEN — Fried, stewed or nude, oysters are always an anticipated delicacy in coastal Georgia, especially once cooler weather hits. The star attraction on the fall and winter menus of local restaurants and the hit of backyard roasts, fresh oysters are a Georgia tradition and an integral part of coastal ecology.
But decades of over-consumption, pollution and declining habitat has decimated the once-massive oyster reefs that dominated estuaries of every coastal state in the contiguous United States. Globally, scientists estimate an 85 percent loss of native oyster reef habitat.
When oysters spawn, the larvae they produce attach to a nearby solid surface, usually another oyster shell, explained Casey Sanders, a research technician with the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service.
“Over generations this process can form oyster reefs that can grow several feet high, but one of the big problems has been that the shells from harvested oysters have not been returned to the water. So oyster larvae fail to attach to a solid object and form new reefs,” Sanders said.  

Turning the Tide

Coastal Georgia residents and proprietors of area restaurants and seafood markets can help turn the tide on a declining marine ecosystem by donating oyster shells to establish new oyster reefs. In other words, oyster lovers can have their shellfish and contribute to a good cause.
Adding to oyster shell recycling stations in Brunswick, Savannah and Jekyll Island, the Marine Extension Service recently established a new recycling station in Darien at the Champney River boat landing on U.S. Highway 17, just north of the Glynn-McIntosh border. Clam, conch and whelk shells also are accepted at all the locations.
In cooperation with The Nature Conservancy, Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Marine Extension Service is collecting oyster shells at the Darien site to use as part of a scientific experiment to test techniques to stabilize eroding creek banks on Sapelo Island.
Funded in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Living Shoreline Restoration Project is designed to implement and study various techniques for stabilizing eroding habitat, with consideration to the natural ecology of Georgia’s coastal environment. One technique is the creation of oyster reefs.
At least 30,000 pounds of shells are needed by spring 2009.
Ron Zeppieri, district governor for the Lions Club, has agreed to donate shells from the organization’s annual oyster roast fundraiser Feb. 28, to the project.
“The Lions Club annual event is about helping others, so we are pleased to be able to donate the left over oyster shells to a cause that is dedicated to revitalizing our coastal environment,” Zeppieri said.

Also, visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at  and the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service at

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