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Oyster shell planting sprays shells back in the water

By Ellen Bacca
Published On: May 23 2013 04:39:26 PM CDT
Newport River, Eastern Carolina -

Oyster shell planting is in full swing across eastern Carolina, but the amount of shells hitting the water are fewer than previous years. Several of the shells that are being swept back into the water were donated.

"The program collects about 25,000 bushels on average the last few years from restaurants and the public and oyster roast functions and they're going right back into the water," said Lead Coordinator of the Oyster Shell Recycling Program, Sabrina Varnam.

The remainder of the shells were purchased by the state. These state-funded shells are fewer than previous years due to budget.

Varnam says barges loaded with oyster shells are not headed to the ocean.

"We actually plant them in mouths of rivers, tributaries and bays and estuaries up and down the Carolina coast line from dare down to Brunswick County," said Varnam.

Old shells are the perfect material for new oysters to use to grow. Varnam says, that's why important to plant the shells now before the oysters begin to spawn.

Just one oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. Oyster reefs can also help reduce erosion and provide a good ecosystem for other marine life.

To see a list of shell donation drop off locations click here.