On Friday, January 10, the North Carolina Coastal Federation and 25 volunteers including volunteers from the public, southeast coastal ambassadors, and Marines from Camp LeJeune, helped bag a total of 768 bags of oyster shell. These shell bags will be used to create an oyster reef habitat as part of a living shoreline at Morris Landing Clean Water Preserve. The living shoreline project is funded by a grant from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission through the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership and their partnership with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. The project is also supported by funding from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

The oyster bags will be stacked along the shoreline to create new oyster reef habitat. The shell structure will attract oyster larvae settlement which will promote oyster growth and the formation of reef habitat. The new reef will offer fish and many other organisms valuable habitat, and it will provide many other ecosystem services. Salt marsh habitat creation landward of the new reef will also be a component of the living shoreline project. The living shoreline will help to stabilize shores and protect them from erosion.

“Our oyster shell bagging events not only educate folks about the importance of oysters but also highlights our oyster shell recycling program. Volunteers are so impressed by the large stockpile located on the property and want to know where all these shells are coming from and what we plan to do with them,” said Bonnie Mitchell, southeast coastal education coordinator.

Oyster shell is a valuable resource in the state of North Carolina. It is used by the federation, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries and others to build new oyster reefs. The federation’s oyster shell recycling program provides a way to collect the shells that may otherwise be improperly disposed of. This type of program gives both restaurants and private consumers a chance to return their shells to the water.

In 2007 the Division of Marine Fisheries worked with the federation to prepare a 1-acre portion of Morris Landing to stockpile oyster shells for restoration projects. The area can now hold approximately 50,000 bushels of oyster shell. The pier and stockpile area at Morris Landing represents the only permanent oyster restoration staging areas between Carteret and Brunswick counties. The site is used to stockpile recycled oyster shell from area restaurants and drop off sites, as well as to store shell and reef material purchased from shucking houses and quarries.

For more information about our oyster restoration work, visit nccoast.org/oysters.