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Alabama Coastal Foundation celebrates $5M grant and seven years recycling oyster shells


After seven years of starting the program, the Alabama Coastal Foundation has received a $5 million grant to expand its Oyster Shell Recycling Program. This is an initiative that supports the environment and provides habitats for marine life.

As part of the Oyster Shell Recycling Program, restaurants along the Gulf Coast in Alabama are returning empty oyster shells to state’s waters to encourage oyster growth, limit erosion and improve water quality. According to the ACF, the program has collected more than 22 million shells since its start in 2016.

“Oyster shells are an incredibly valuable resource,” said Chandra Wright, member of the Oyster Shell Advisory Program. “Prior to the Oyster Shell Recycling Program starting, our oyster shells were being thrown away by the restaurants and going into the landfill. That is not the great place that we want our oyster shells to go,” she explained.

Over the next three years, the AFC will receive support from Restoring America’s Estuaries Program and a $5 million dollar grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

According to Chris Blankenship, Alabama Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, this support will go toward expanding the number of restaurants participating in the initiative, as well as furthering education.

“That $5 million grant will be used to expand the Oyster Shell Recycling Program in Alabama to probably double the number of restaurants that are participating in the program,” explained Commissioner Blankenship. “We will also do some education work and help set up a community of practice meetings between the states and do a lot of other things to help grow throughout the Gulf,” he continued.

With oysters being a large resource for the Alabama economy and coastal environment, Wright said she believes this program is an important investment into the Alabama Gulf Coast community.

“Alabama is historically the largest processor of oysters in the country, so [that’s a] huge economic benefit to us as well. Those oyster reefs also provided valuable habitat for other creatures, such as a lot of fish … shrimp… and crabs…. So, a number of ecosystem services going in and it also helps with our coastal erosion, “Wright explained.

The Alabama Coastal Foundation has been dedicated to improving and protecting the state’s coastal environment for the past three decades. For more information on the group’s work and the Oyster Shell Recycling Program, visit the ACF website.

Hannah Holcombe is a student intern at the Alabama Public Radio newsroom. She is a Sophomore at the University of Alabama and is studying news media. She has a love for plants, dogs and writing. She hopes to pursue a career as a reporter.
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