Volunteers with Gulf Coast Growth Ventures (GCGV) recycled 7,084 pounds of oysters Saturday, April 10 for the start of a new reef in partnership with the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.

The group of about 40 employees and spouses met at the bayside near the Big Tree at Goose Island State Park, north of Rockport. After learning about the benefits of oysters in the local ecosystem as shoreline protection and water filters, and hearing that habitat is in decline, the team worked in small groups to shovel shells into buckets and emptying those buckets into mesh bags. The group lined up into shallow water, passing 22-pound bags hand-over-hand to the marked spot in the water where the bags were placed to create a new reef. New oysters will attach to the hard shells, creating a solid reef, an excellent habitat for shrimp, marine worms and small fish.

“GCGV is here to be good neighbors and this is one of the ways we show that,” said GCGV process technician Leslie Lamon. “Volunteering with this oyster recycling project is a perfect display of our promise to be good environmental stewards, a key component of our Good Neighbor Program that focuses our interactions in areas of community interests.”

In a unique recycling effort with local restaurants and festivals, oyster shells used for this were collected and cleaned after people ate fresh oysters. Since the program began in 2009, the Institute has restored more than 25 acres of reef in Copano, Aransas and St. Charles Bays.

“The importance of the volunteers is twofold,” said the HRI Associate Director for Institutional Initiatives and Finance and Administration Gail Sutton. “First, they build habitat and restore reefs. They help us get a lot of work done quickly that we couldn’t do alone, so the environment reaps the benefit almost immediately. Second, the volunteers get to see the shells from oysters that they’ve probably enjoyed in restaurants being recycled right before their eyes, something we call ‘closing the loop.’ By allowing our volunteers to participate in the recycling process directly, we create a much more meaningful impact overall, and a great lesson about the life cycle of the oyster.”

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