PONTE VEDRA BEACH – Northeast Florida Aquatic Preserves and Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM) National Estuarine Research Reserve participated in the 2015 Oyster Jam Music Festival in Jacksonville, bringing back more than 12,000 pounds of oyster shells for its recycling program.
“For the past three years, GTM Research Reserve has been picking up the discarded shells for reef building,” said Andrea Small, Northeast Florida Aquatic Preserves manager. “Thanks to the growing popularity of the festival, the volume of oyster shells donated has increased so much we needed a container truck to help transport.”
In continued support of the recycling program, Oyster Jam event producers rented a 10-yard recycling container and delivered the shells to the reserve — a donation in excess of 12,000 pounds. This is more than four times last year’s contribution. Oyster Jam staff, along with staff and volunteers from Northeast Florida Aquatic Preserves and GTM Research Reserve, were on hand at the event for the entire weekend to ensure litter-free shells went into the transport container.
“Recycling oyster shells from restaurants and special events has provided a sustainable source for restoring the much-needed oyster reefs,” said Michael Shirley, director of the GTM Research Reserve.
The shells will rest for six months to a year before staff and volunteers will bag and deploy them for use in oyster reef restoration projects, such as oyster reef habitat building and living shoreline projects.
Eastern oysters are a keystone species in local estuaries, providing a variety of important ecosystem services that include habitat for marine organisms, shoreline erosion protection and improved water quality through filtering many gallons of water a day.
For more information about the oyster recycling program or restoration projects, please contact Andrea Small at 904-823-4500.