CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Department of Life Sciences at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) will be on-hand at the third annual Austin Oyster Festival on Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas.
Dr. Jennifer Pollack of the University’s Life Sciences Department and Gail Sutton, Assistant Director of the Harte Research Institute, will assist the Austin Oyster Festival in recycling more than 2,000 pounds of oyster shells.
“Our goal is to collect oyster shells from the festival for our ‘Sink Your Shucks’ oyster shell recycling program,” said Pollack. “The festival organizers are purchasing 6,000 oysters for the festival that will be shucked and net around 2,000 pounds of oyster shell.”
Founded in 2009 by the HRI and the College of Science and Engineering, Sink Your Shucks (www.OysterRecycling.org) was the first program established in Texas that reclaims oyster shells from area restaurants and returns them to local waters, providing materials to form new reefs and habitats for fish, crabs, and other ocean organisms. The program has been awarded grants by the Texas General Land Office’s Coastal Management Program to ensure the long-term environmental and economic health of the Texas Coast.
More than five acres of oyster reef habitat have been restored throughout the Mission-Aransas estuary. The Island University currently partners with local business including Water Street Oyster Bar and the Port of Corpus Christi to recycle more than 251 tons of oyster shells to date. Student volunteers pick up the oyster shells from restaurants two to three times a week and store them at the Port before they make their way back into the estuaries.
“Oysters are important to our estuaries for a variety of reasons,” said Pollack. “They provide homes for a lot of crabs, fish, and shrimp as well as provide a food source for important sportfish.”
Pollack and Sutton, who were contacted by the festival organizers after learning about the recycling program, also will have an information booth at the event. Festival-goers can look forward to enjoying live entertainment and a wide array of oyster offerings. Each ticket purchased will benefit the Capital Area Food Bank and help feed hungry children. Festival-goers can also feel proud knowing that shells from the festival will go towards rebuilding new oyster reefs instead of ending up in a landfill.
For more information on the Austin Oyster Festival, go to http://www.austinoysterfestival.com/home.html. The next Oyster Reef Restoration events are planned for Saturday, April 25, and Saturday, May 16, at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, Texas.