The S.C. Department of Natural Resources reminds the public of the importance of recycling oyster shells for refurbishing oyster bed productivity.
Several tickets have been issued recently by S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) law enforcement officers for violations of removing oyster shells from recycling drop-off locations. The 16 recycling locations that span the coast from Murrells Inlet to Bluffton enable the public to donate their shells as an incentive that directly benefits the DNR’s Oyster Recycling and Restoration Program. The program oversees the collection of shells from these sites, and uses the donated shells to refurbish existing oyster beds during late spring and summer.
For more information, contact Andy Jennings, Oyster Recycling and Restoration Program coordinator, at (843) 953-9396 in Charleston, or Jason Comer, assistant program coordinator, at (843) 953-9397, also in Charleston, and visit http://saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/oyster.html for recycling drop-off locations.
Under South Carolina law, it is unlawful to remove shells from these deposit areas, and anyone found in violation is guilty of a misdemeanor that incurs penalties ranging from $25 to no more than $500, and imprisonment up to 30 days. Oyster shells are critical habitat that attracts settlement of larval oysters and continued propagation of the resource.
According to Ginger Pop, DNR law enforcement officer: “The public needs to realize that we monitor these oyster shell collection areas carefully, the Recycling and Restoration Program is taken very seriously. The resource is vital to shellfish production, and the regulation carries a no-tolerance attachment.”
DNR has gathered more than 6,200 bushels of donated oyster shells from drop-off locations so far this year. The 2004-2005 collection season tallied 10,494 bushels donated statewide. Jennings said, “Every shell recycled is used by DNR to enhance the Public Shellfish Grounds during the summer spawning months.” Funding to accomplish shell recycling and planting is one of several projects made possible by Salt Water Fishing License revenue.
The closing of oyster canneries and shucking houses a few decades ago, coupled with the more recent impact of Gulf Coast hurricanes affecting vendors in the Gulf, have furthered limited DNR’s shell collection from sources aside from the 16 coastal drop-off sites.
Comer said: “We are worried that the numbers of recycled oyster shell collected so far this year are slightly less than normal due to a public misconception that it is OK to remove shells from the drop-off areas. If more shells were recycled and collected from our drop-off areas, we would not have to purchase shell resources from outside of South Carolina.”
The DNR encourages large and small donations of oyster shells at the collection areas. All shells are transported throughout the summer, and once quarantined and cleaned, they are used to enhance existing Public Shellfish Grounds. It is important to remember that once donated, removing the oyster shells from the recycling areas is unlawful and subject to a strict penalty.- Written by Anna Martin -