Oyster Recycling Sites Open In Wicomico Co., Tax Credits In July - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Oyster Recycling Sites Open In Wicomico Co., Tax Credits In July

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WICOMICO CO., Md. - Starting July 1st, residents and restaurants that recycle oyster shells in Wicomico County can cash in on an incentive.

For every bushel of used, recycled oyster shells, the State of Maryland will pay $1 to anyone who recycles and up to $750 per year. To participate, all you have to do is drop off the shells at any of the eleven Wicomico County transfer stations, where four new green bins have been installed at each location to collect used oyster shells.

"This is a chance for everybody, whether it's a someone who has a couple dozen oysters at a weekend party or the restaurants that have the oysters that's part of their main menu," said Wicomico Co. executive Rick Pollitt.    

This is a voluntary effort and some area businesses say they are not interested in participating. Although they agree it's a good idea, one shop owner admits he would prefer to sell to a private contractor, who offers a dollar more than the state incentive.

But this effort goes way beyond the tax credit.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership says this is all about the health of the Chesapeake Bay, which last week scored an overall 32 out of 100 on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's "State of the Bay" report and an "F" for the amount of oysters.

However, the report does say, "Oysters seem to have turned a corner, with improved survival and a dedicated, science-based restoration effort. Well over a billion oysters have been planted since 2010, and the good spatset (the annual production of young oysters that began as plankton and attached to shell or some other hard surface to mature) from that year appears to be thriving.

"The biggest challenge will be creating enough bottom substrate for establishing reefs. Oyster shells, the preferred natural substrate, are limited in quantities, so scientists are trying alternative materials.

"Continued good survival and regular spatset will be key in the high salinity lower Bay, where shells degrade naturally if not replenished. Dedicated funding will be essential to overcome these challenges."

Bryan Gomes, a manager of special programs at Shell Recycling Alliance of the Oyster Recovery Partnership says, "When you have a healthy, productive three-dimensional oyster reef, you're going to have a lot of mud crabs, a lot of bait fish. You can go right up the food web, the food chain, right up to the blue crabs and the rockfish."

ORP says their Shell Recycling Alliance has recycled more than 1,200 tons of shells since its inception in 2009.

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