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Why oyster shells are no longer garbage at some Tampa Bay area restaurants

Jessica Meszaros
WUSF Public Media

Tampa Bay Watch is taking what normally would be trash and using it to help restore the eastern oyster population in Tampa Bay.

It's currently collecting 4 tons of oyster shells a month from area restaurants. So far, 11 of them are donating their shucked oyster shells.

The shells are cured and then put back into the water to create homes for new oysters.

Richard Radigan, the "Shells for Shorelines" program manager, said he's not surprised by the high restaurant participation.

He said people really feel like they're participating in the improvement of our local waters.

"To learn that even by going to a participating restaurant, they are helping individually to improve our waterways by increasing those oyster populations," said Radigan.

Besides being great for shoreline preservation and habitats for lots of fish, oysters are one of nature's great water filters.

"An adult oyster while underwater, can filter up to two gallons of water an hour," Radigan explained. "So if you take areas of the bay that could potentially support 1000 oysters per square meter at 50 gallons per oyster a day you're talking 50,000 gallons of water that's being filtered."

Radigan said Tampa Bay Watch wants to eventually see 20 restaurants participating in the program.

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Craig Kopp