Until one understands early oyster development the notion of shell recycling for the purpose of oyster restoration can be confusing. I have had customers in front of me at the raw bar, as they put shells in designated buckets (see right) ask,"how do oysters move into that?!"
We use an analogy that shell is to a baby oyster as soil is to a seed. The young oyster needs surface area and a medium to "take root" so to speak.
Following an oyster spawn, there is a late larval stage of the oyster, called spat, when it begins growing a shell. Prior to this stage, the oyster larvae are free swimming. As the shell is formed, the animal sinks and attempts to “strike” onto a surface.
Fellow oysters or old oyster shell is ideal, but there are other circumstantial options, such as bulk heads, dock piles or the bottom of boats kept in the water. Intentional rehabilitation efforts such as Lynnhaven River Now’s Oyster Castles are another option.
As this wild strike repeats annually, wild oysters cluster into a living matrix. Ultimately, this results in an oyster reef creating habitats for a host of other wildlife. Wild oysters protect themselves by colonizing in this manner. As isolated animals, they are much more susceptible to predation.
There is another important reason we recycle shells at LOC events. Learn more here.