Gregg Holshouser’s Outdoor’s Column | Remember to recycle your oyster shells

The holidays have arrived, there’s a chill in the air and the water in local estuaries has cooled to the lower to mid 50s. As autumn turns to winter, it’s time to enjoy a treasure of the South Carolina coast – briny, local oysters.

While enjoying your Lowcountry oyster roast this season, remember to properly dispose of the leftover oyster shell. Returning the shell of local oysters to its home in local estuaries along the coast is critically important in not only replenishing the oyster beds, but to the overall health of the marine ecosystem found along the coast.

In springtime, typically in late April or early May depending on water temperature, oysters begin spawning and continue periodically through the summer. Spat, or oyster larvae, are released into the water and need a suitable material to attach to and begin creating new oysters.

Spat prefer attaching to old oyster shells to begin creating their own shell. Once attached, the small oysters continue growing to create oyster reefs, thus providing a crucial element in the state’s saltwater ecosystem.

Oyster reefs help improve water quality, control erosion and provide habitat for numerous species of fish and shellfish.

The South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) program is designed to restore and enhance oyster habitat by planting recycled oyster shells in estuaries along the Palmetto State coast to form new, self-sustaining oyster reefs, with volunteers doing the heavy lifting.

According to S.C. DNR, oyster populations are on the decline, meaning the work done through SCORE is of the utmost importance in South Carolina’s estuaries.

The SCORE program will be on full display December 8, at the Lowcountry Oyster Roast and BBQ Dinner, put on by The Beaver Bar and the Waccamaw Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina (CCA).

The 2nd annual event will be staged at 4 p.m. outside at The Beaver Bar in Murrells Inlet, at the Horry-Georgetown County line on U.S. Hwy 17 Business.

One of the numerous S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ oyster shell recycling trailers will be on site for the leftover shell from the oyster roast to be piled on and eventually returned to estuaries along the coast.

CCA South Carolina is very active in the SCORE program through its Topwater Action Campaign.

“The oysters consumed will be local South Carolina oysters, and the shell produced will go to DNR’s SCORE program, and will remain in South Carolina for more oyster reef projects,” said Chris Hawley, Chairman and State Board Representative of the local Waccamaw Chapter of the S.C. Coastal Conservation Association. “This initiative is a huge contributor to the overall oyster recycling effort across the state, and we are proud to play an instrumental role in it.”

For a cost of only $25, attendees will be treated to the local oyster roast, a BBQ dinner and fixings prepared by The Beaver Bar and an open bar serving beer and wine. The event is sponsored by Williams Knife Company and Pawleys Island Outdoors.

Tickets will serve as an entry into door prize items including merchandise from Williams Knife Company, Pawleys Island Outdoors and KS custom duck and turkey calls.

Doors open at 4 p.m. for the event, which will end at 9 p.m. Attendees should note that food will only be served from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information, call Chris Hawley (843-455-0371).

Oyster Shell Dropoff

Residents who wish to contribute to the SCORE program and recycle shells from their private oyster roast have plenty of options in Horry and Georgetown counties to drop off the leftover shell. The locations include: