EVALUATING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A RECYCLING INITIATIVE FOR COLLECTING SHUCKED SHELL FROM RESTAURANTS IN THE BEAUFORT REGION OF SOUTH CAROLINA ORGANIZED AS A FOR-PROFIT BUSINESS
Pasquini, Alexander Baker
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Oysters are a crucial species in the estuarine waters of South Carolina, as well as the majority of the United States. Overfishing, pollution, and disease have had devastating negative effects on oyster populations around the world. The purpose of this project is to provide an ecosystem service through the implementation of a shell recycling program that works with restaurants to ensure that shells return to the ocean to further promote the establishment and success of our local oyster populations. The initial target market will be Beaufort County, which is located along the southern coast of South Carolina. Shells will be regularly picked up from participating restaurants, quarantined for a minimum amount of time, and supplied to the government and non-governmental agencies that are involved in restoration and management of local oyster beds. The shucked oyster shells, called cultch, are used as substrate for wild populations of oysters to attach to and are dispersed along the intertidal zones during the summer spawning season. Once recruitment occurs, new beds will be established in those areas. Due to budget and personnel constraints the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is unable to service outlying areas around Charleston with regular restaurant pickups which, combined with South Carolina’s lack of policy for sustainable disposal of shell, has led to much shell entering landfills or being used for landscaping. This initiative will prospectively prove to be a successful means of capturing this valuable resource, and the strategies and methods utilized could proliferate and scale to other regions and markets.