SCDNR - News Release
February 7, 2005
(843) 953-9310

DNR hauls off 680 bushels of Recycled shell after Boone Hall Plantation's 22nd Annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival

On Monday, January 31, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employees did the dirty work of sorting through trash to load up on treasures –oyster shells!

Boone Hall Plantation hosted the 22nd Annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival on Sunday, January 30, where 65,000 pounds of the delicacies were devoured at the world's largest oyster roast. The next day, DNR employees sorted through a lot of trash in order to gather the shells, which will be used by the DNR's Oyster Recycling and Restoration Programs. Several DNR employees volunteered to help with this effort, which resulted in collecting 680 bushels of shells for the programs.

"I'm very pleased that we are involved with the DNR and that they are coming out to get the oysters after the festival," said Kathy Britzius, Director of the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association, who has coordinated the Lowcountry Oyster Festival for 19 years. "A lot of people call us asking for the shells or inquiring what we do with the shells after the roast. We are glad to donate them to the DNR where they will be recycled and can benefit the environment."

The DNR believes it is important to obtain the shells from the festival because of the large quantity that is available.

"We are excited to be working with the Lowcountry Oyster Festival," said Andy Jennings, DNR biologist who coordinates the Oyster Recycling Project. "Because it's the largest oyster roast in the world, this is a great chance to intercept a lot of clean oyster shell at one time." Jennings will use some of these shells to plant Public Shellfish Grounds in the Charleston area.

So far during the 2004-2005 oyster season, South Carolina citizens have voluntarily recycled 4,673 bushels of shell. Residents in Charleston County have been increasing the amount of shell recycled every year for the last four years. So far this year, Charleston County has recycled almost 3,000 bushels of oyster shells, and the ones from this weekend's public oyster roast will significantly contribute to that number.

Although South Carolina's commercial shellfish harvest has remained stable over the past three decades, the closing of oyster canneries and most shucking houses during this period has resulted in a shortage of shucked oyster shell needed to cultivate oyster beds.

The increasing popularity of backyard oyster roasts and retail sales have contributed to this shortage in that shells from individual oyster roasts are not usually returned to the water. More often than not, the shell ends up in driveways and landfills.

It is beneficial to "put back" the oyster shells because they provide a hard surface to which juvenile oysters will attach and grow. Basically, baby oysters like to land and grow on other oyster shells.

Oysters reproduce during the warm weather months and release free-swimming larvae into the water. The larvae are carried by tidal currents, and after two to three weeks they seek a hard surface to attach to, where they begin to build their shells of calcium carbonate. Other materials such as shucked whelk shell have been very successful in attracting and supporting young oysters.

Even non-native oyster shells such as those from Florida or the Gulf of Mexico are accepted by the DNR, since all recycled shells are quarantined to get rid of any bacteria or viruses, as well as any exotic species that may be attached to the shells. Quarantining the shells also gets rid of Dermo, a disease harmful to oysters but not humans before they are put back into South Carolina waters.

Oysters are very important to the marine environment. They create habitats that are used by many other critters including fish, crabs, shrimp, mussels and worms. They provide other services to the environment as well, acting as a buffer to keep waves from washing away the shoreline. Also, a single oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water each day, improving water quality by removing sediment and controlling algal blooms.

Funds from the S.C. Saltwater Recreational Fishing License Program support the DNR's oyster restoration and recycling programs' goals to increase oyster habitat in South Carolina.

The public can see maps to the nearest oyster shell recycling bin locations (16total), learn more about the Oyster Recycling and Restoration Programs, or find out how to volunteer by visiting the S.C. Saltwater Recreational Fishing License Web site at To receive over-the-phone information on recycling bin locations, or to volunteer to help restore oysters, call the DNR at 843-953-9300.

- Written by Jennie R. Davis -