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Oyster shell reef effort revived after pandemic pause

August 8, 2021 GMT

NEW ORLEANS, La. (AP) — A program that uses oyster shells discarded by restaurants to construct artificial reefs to protect coastal Louisiana is rebuilding itself after being shut down last year by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana program has been working since 2014 to recycle oyster shells to protect wetlands and coastal communities. But with stay-at-home orders and and other pandemic restrictions in 2020, it was shuttered, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.

Prior to the pandemic, about 20 restaurants produced about 75 tons a month for the effort. Now the coalition and the Chef’s Brigade have 13 restaurants contributing cast-off shells, the website reported.

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The shells, which would otherwise be sent to landfills, are used to build protections against waves, storms and rising sea levels that contribute to land loss. They also encourage the growth of new oysters and provide a home and food for other marine life.

The Chef’s Brigade, which an a meal assistance program during the pandemic’s first wave, was instrumental in recruiting for the recycling program, according to the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

“Helping to jump-start the oyster shell recycling program was an easy decision for us, and we’re committed to its expansion and success,” said Troy Gilbert, the brigade’s executive director.

The program has recycled more than 5,000 tons of oyster shells since 2014. A reef at an ancient Native American mound in Plaquemines Parish is being completed. Last year, an 800-ton wall of shells nearly a mile long was finished in Barataria Bay.