Helping with shells project gives oyster shells a second chance

17 March 2021 – For many consumers, oysters are a true delicacy. In the Netherlands, the two most popular oyster species are the Pacific and the European flat oyster. Both score green on the VISwijzer or have the MSC quality mark and are always a good choice, but the empty shells are often discarded. Especially in the horeca industry, where normally thousands of oysters are served daily.

Time for a change, which is why we have launched the ‘Helping with shells’ project together with the World Wildlife Fund, ARK Nature and the Oesterij. With this project, we collect thousands of empty oyster shells, make oyster cradles out of them, which we then put into the water. Empty shells provide an excellent surface for young oysters to attach themselves to. In the long term, the oyster cradles will create large shellfish reefs, which will benefit many algae, fish and other marine animals.

What are we aiming for?

In order to achieve this, a lot of shells are needed. Since 2019, we have been working together with a number of restaurants and horeca establishments for this purpose, including the Oesterij in Yerseke, restaurant Pure C in Cadzand, Hotel New York in Rotterdam and de Zilte Zeemeermin in Arnhem. As partners in our horeca programme, they collect all their sold oyster shells so that we can reuse them. We also support affiliated restaurants in making their menus more sustainable.

De Zilte Zeemeermin is one of the collection partners of the ‘Helping with shells’ project

How does it work?

The shells we receive are first put outside for a while so that they can become clean. Then they are offered to the Oesterij, where they are formed into an ‘oyster bed’ in a construction with biodegradable gauze and wooden beams. This construction protects the oysters from predators and prevents shells being washed away. Once we’ve put the oyster cradle into the North Sea, the monitoring starts.

An oyster cradle made of gauze and wood -Ernst Schrijver Ark Nature

What can you do?

Our ambition for this project is to have as many collection partners as possible donate/recycle their shells and thus contribute to the restoration of nature. In 2021 this project is still in a pilot phase with a number of restaurants. In 2022 we will scale up.

Want to know more? Read more about this project here!

Cover picture made by Floor Driessen / Bureau Waardenburg