If you shuck it - Don't chuck it. That is the tagline for a North Carolina program that is using old oyster shells to make new ones. New reefs are being built from oysters across the state with much success. “We're finding that the oyster shell itself is the best material, the best substrate, to grow new oysters out in tidal areas,” Airlie Gardens Environmental Education Manager Matt Collogan. Airlie Gardens is just one location in the county that has created a thriving oyster population from new reefs. There are plenty of benefits to more oysters in the water. “A single six inch oyster in a high flow area can filter fifty gallons of water each day. So the more oysters we have, the cleaner the water's going to be,” added Collogan. And that is a good thing for waters like Bradley Creek that have been too polluted for safe shell fishing for years. The state-wide program from the Division of Marine Fisheries is asking all citizens to recycle their old shells after they eat them. Doing so, not only cleans the water, but also benefits a dwindling oyster population. “We've lost ninety percent of our oyster population in the last hundred years. Since the year 1900 nine of out ten oysters have disappeared,” said Collogan. “So, North Carolina recognized that and now they're passing legislation. It is just a matter of connecting the science with the policy makers, and I think we're bridging that gap.” This past weekend Airlie Gardens donated all of its thousands of oyster shells from its annual oyster roast to the project. The shells will join others to make a new reef locally in the near future. To find locations to recycle your oyster shells, you can visit www.ncfisheries.net.
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