Half Shells for Habitat (H4H), which was initiated by Seatuck and a host of partners in 2018, is an island-wide program to recover oyster shells from restaurants for use in oyster and habitat restoration efforts.
Maureen Dunn, Seatuck's Water Quality Scientist (pictured at right with Seatuck board member Charlie Weiss), conceived and established the program to address the critical need to return oyster shells to Long Island's estuaries. The shells provide vitally important substrate on which young oysters can attach and grow, and they help to combat coastal acidification by returning calcium to the water (see diagram below for more detail).
Seatuck initially partnered with the Town of Brookhaven to launch the program. With Town Supervisor Edward Romaine's enthusiastic support, a shell storage site was established at their composting facilty in Manorville (pursuant to NYSDEC regulations, after being collected the shells have to sit in the sun for at least 6 months before going back in the water).
And the project was piloted with the generous cooperation of Catch Oyster Bar in Patchogue and three of the Bohlsen Restaurant Group's restaurants:Tellers (Islip), H20 (East Islip) and Prime (Huntington). The Snapper Inn (Oakdale) and The Cull House (Sayville) also joined the program as early participants.
H4H has continued to grow since the pilot project, with the Town of Islip also coming on board as a partner and establishing a shell storage site at their recycling and compost facility. And the full list of participating restaurants has expanded to including the following:
- Bluepoint Brewery
- Captain Bill's
- Catch Oyster Bar
- Claws Seafood Market
- The Cull House
- Harbor Crab
- The Snapper Inn
- The View
- South Shore Dive
- Blackbird's Grille
- The Fish Store
Importantly, Seatuck's program wasn't the only shell recovery project iniated on Long Ialnd in 2018. At around the same time as H4H was getting started, the Town of Hempstead and Adelphi University were launching a program of their own in southern Nassau County. Their program, call Community Oyster Restoration Effort (CORE) and partially supported by a grant from New York State, also began collecting shells from restaurants in Long Beach and nearby communities in 2018. Seatuck and the team at CORE have been working together closely and will be coordinating their efforts under the H4H banner.
Half Shells for Habitat reached an important milestone in late May 2019, when fully-aged shells were picked up at the Town of Brookhaven's storage site. Since then Cornell Cooperative Extension's Long Island Shellfish Restoration Project, Stony Brook University's Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program, and Moriches Bay Project have returned shells back to our bays for use in their oyster restoration and reef-building projects. In total, the Half Shells for Habitat program has collected 37,194 lbs or about 19 US tons, of waste oyster shells. Out of the 37,194 lbs, there have been 10,825 lbs that have returned to the South Shore Bays.
With Half Shells expanding its reach on Long Island, the program was invited to become one of the founding members of the New York Alliance of Shell Collectors in 2020. This platform aims to bring together shell collector's all over New York State in hopes to increase the amount of collection, curing, and recycling of oyster shells in the future. We are proud to come together with other incredible organizations advocating for shell re-use efforts on not only a state, but a national level.
How the Half Shells for Habitat Program Works: