TAVARES — Lake County’s Environmental Services Division has joined with the Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA) and local restaurants to assist with reef estuary habitat restoration along Florida’s coast.
Oyster shells collected at participating restaurants are now being taken to the Lake County Central Solid Waste Facility in Tavares and put in drying beds. From there, they will be placed in Florida’s coastal waters to create new oyster habitats.
According to the CCA, each oyster filters up to 50 gallons of water per day, sequesters nitrogen, provides an important refuge for hundreds of marine species and is a food source for many species.
“What is really great about Lake County’s participation in the program is its central location in the state, which allows us to distribute them throughout Florida to areas in desperate need of restoration,” said Frank Gidus, Director of Habitat and Environmental Restoration at CCA Florida. “Some parts of the state, such as Brevard County’s Indian River Lagoon will benefit greatly from having access to these shells.”
The oyster shells are first required to dry out for a minimum of three months. To date, the county has about 1,600 pounds of shells in the drying beds.
“Recently the CCA has focused intently on habitat restoration,” added Gidus. “Without places like Clermont Oyster Bar in Lake County, and other restaurants throughout the state, it would make vital programs that help improve water quality and provide habitat a harder goal to reach.”
Restaurants looking to participate in the program are provided storage drums by the CCA and are required to separate out the shells from their general refuse. Volunteers collect the shells and transport them to the drying beds.
“Lake County is known for its rolling topography and beautiful inland lakes and water resources, but it’s exciting to know that through this partnership, we are doing our part to help with the protection and restoration of Florida’s coastal water resources,” said Commissioner Sean Parks, who helped broker the partnership. “It’s also an added benefit when local businesses step up to help Florida’s environment.”
The Coastal Conservation Association Florida is a grassroots organization that is committed to conserving and protecting Florida’s marine resources. Its mission is to advise and educate the public on conservation of marine resources.