CLEAR LAKE — GALVESTON, Texas - It's been eight years in the making. 850 tons of oyster shells have been recycled around Galveston Bay from restaurants to go back into the ocean to help rebuild oyster reefs that were lost during Hurricane Ike.
Over half have already been put back. It’s what Shannon Batte does three days a week.
“I load onto the trailer, the full bins," Batte said.
Batte collects shells.
“And then I leave empty bins for them," she said. "And then I haul those full bins to our curing site.”
Not off a beach or in a bay, she recycles them from restaurants.
“That way the shell is a pure clean shell when it goes back into the water," Batte said.
Three times a week, she’s at Tommy’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar in Clear Lake, where cooks will crack open more than 3,000 oysters on a Tuesday night alone.
“We started selling oysters and had no place to put the oyster shells," Owner Tom Tollett said.
Tollett says it was a huge concern tossing something so valuable in the trash.
“It’s an incredible resource that we must sustain," Tollett said.
So he’s partnered with the Galveston Bay Foundation, who picks up his shells three times a week and lays them out to dry.
“We take the shells, and we build oyster reefs along the shorelines," Batte said.
Six months later, they’re put back where they came from in Galveston Bay to restore the reefs that Mother Nature took away.
“When Hurricane Ike came through, we lost about 50 percent of our oyster reefs in Galveston Bay. We’re making some great inroads in providing new reefs for oysters," Tollett said.