A grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration will help the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program with education and expand its geographic reach.
The new grant is the first formal NOAA award supporting the oyster restoration program, which is part of Virginia Commonwealth University Life Sciences and is located at the VCU Rice Rivers Center in Charles City County. The program — primarily supported with charitable contributions and a lot of volunteer hours — is a public-private collaborative effort that takes oyster shells destined for the trash and after seeding them with baby oysters, returns the shells to the Chesapeake Bay. Annually, volunteers divert more than 125,000 pounds of oyster shells from the landfill for restoration efforts. If all of those shells are returned, that is replenishing more than 55 million oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, according to Todd Janeski, the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program’s directo