Chef Emily Woodruff and her team at the James Landing Grill shuck hundreds of oysters each day during peak season at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg – that's 70,000 oyster shells annually. But instead of chucking those shells in the trash, the Kingsmill Resort has partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to recycle them to help restore the oyster reefs of the bay.
According to a report from the Nature Conservancy, more than 85 percent of the world's wild oyster reefs have been lost to over-harvesting, dredging and from silt and other sediments that cover them. Native populations of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay are down to one percent of historic levels.
Why does it matter? A single oyster can filter 50 gallons of water each day, significantly improving the health of the surrounding waterway. They're considered a keystone organism in the Chesapeake Bay, and without them, other species – including humans who rely of the bay for their livelihoods – would suffer.
But you can still have your oyster and eat it too! The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has figured out how to restore oyster reefs using old shells. After the shells are cleaned and cured, they're placed in tanks of oyster larvae, called spat, that attach to the shells. They're then planted by oyster gardeners in rivers and the Chesapeake to built new habitats for oysters.
“We always strive to provide our guests with sustainable choices on our menu,” says Michael Gordon, Sustainability and Risk Manager for Kingsmill Resort. “With this program, they also help enhance and protect the water quality and diversity of life in the Chesapeake Bay, a national treasure and the nursery for the Atlantic Ocean.”