Jonathan Swift once wrote, "He was a bold man that first ate an oyster." When looking at an oyster one can see why he said that, but it is also said that fortune favors the bold, and the man that first ate an oyster certainly found this to be true. Oysters are by far one of the most popular and sought after items in the seafood world. One could write entire books (and they have) on how delicious the oyster is, but one of the most amazing things about oysters is how they help keep our bays around the world nice and clean.
Oysters are filter feeders, meaning they eat by pumping large volumes of water through their body. Water is pumped over the oyster's gills through the beating of cilia. Plankton, algae and other particles become trapped in the mucus of the gills. From there these particles are transported to the oyster esophagus and stomach to be eaten and digested.
Believe it or not, an oyster's appetite is so large that one full grown oyster is said to be able to filter about 50 gallons of water a day! Oysters are quite simply the most effective filtration systems of our bays. Now this doesn't at all mean we have to stop enjoying these briny treats! Young oysters actually depend upon the hard shell substrate provided by reefs for attachment and growth and this is why Groomer's Seafood is proud to be a part of the Sink Your Shucks program.
The oyster recycling program "Sink Your Shucks" was founded by the Harte Research Institute in 2009 by Dr. Jennifer Pollack, Assistant Professor in the Department of Life Sciences at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) and Dr. Paul Montagna, HRI's Endowed Chair for Ecosystems and Modeling at Harte Research Institute. The program was the first in Texas that reclaims oyster shells from local restaurants (and us!) and returns them to our local waters providing both substrate to form new reefs and habitat for fish, crabs and other organisms.
Returning shells to our bays requires some coordination. Shells are picked up twice weekly from restaurants and transported to the Port of Corpus Christi where they are quarantined. The shell is then moved from the stockpile location to various sites. Over 5 acres of oyster reef habitat has been restored throughout the Mission-Aransas Estuary using over 2,400 cubic yards of recycled oyster shells and crushed concrete. In the spring of 2012, volunteers participated in community shell-bagging events to create the building blocks of an educational reef in St. Charles Bay, adjacent to Goose Island State Park. Thanks to volunteers, over 1800 mesh bags were filled with approximately 5 gallons of shell each for a total of 40,000 lbs. of shell! These bags were then placed in the bay to create new oyster reef habitat.
So when you're enjoying that ocean pearl, know that it plays an integral part in keeping the oyster industry booming and therefor helps protect our ocean environments. It's you fine folks that keeps places like us who shuck oysters in business which in turn goes to help keep our Bays clean! So pick up a dozen or two this weekend, we look forward to seeing you!