Thousands of People Contribute to Building Louisiana’s Newest Oyster Reef


RCL and TNC construct oyster reef using shell collected from New Orleans restaurants

Baton Rouge, LA (November 18, 2016) – it took thousands of people eating mounds of oysters for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana’s (CRCL) Oyster Shell Recycling Program to have enough recycled oyster shell to construct its first oyster reef. This week, CRCL, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), completed its first half-mile of oyster reef using 1.7 million pounds of oyster shell collected from New Orleans restaurants.

The program began in June 2014, and is the first recycling program in Louisiana with 12 participating restaurants in the New Orleans Area. Within a year, it grew to become the largest oyster recycling program in the nation. Now with 26 participating restaurants, the program has saved more than 5 million pounds of oyster shell from ending up in Louisiana landfills.

“This has been an amazing journey for us. That so many restaurants were eager to participate in an unproven program was inspiring. Together we collected a mountain of shell. Now, we’ve put it to great use.” said CRCL Executive Director, Kimberly Davis Reyher. “1.7 million pounds of shell that was destined for the landfill will instead help to restore our coast and protect our city.”

The Oyster Shell Recycling Program was initially funded by a generous grant from Shell.

“Preserving and protecting our waters to improve coastal resilience is important to Shell, and it is exciting to see this unique ‘home grown’ Louisiana program come so far so fast,” said Sylvie Tran, Shell Deepwater Gulf of Mexico Safety, Environment and Regulatory Affairs General Manager. “Shell is proud to have been at the forefront of this program – providing the funds needed to redirect oyster shells from landfills to the shoreline – and we look forward to its future continued success.”

The reef was constructed in Biloxi Marsh (St. Bernard Parish), specifically along the shore of Lake Athanasio. This site was selected because it is experiencing particularly high rates of shoreline erosion due to the area’s high wave action. The reef was constructed through a partnership with TNC and funded by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is pleased to partner with CRCL and implement this significant oyster reef restoration project utilizing recycled oyster shell. TNC has created over 4.5 miles of reef habitat across the Louisiana coast (including three in this area) and has found that these projects work well to reestablish vertical reef structure, create fisheries habitat and provide an important long-term and self-sustaining approach to shoreline protection,“ said Keith Ouchley, State Director, The Nature Conservancy.

“It is incredibly gratifying to have CRCL and The Nature Conservancy partnering with us on goals CPRA works toward every day—saving the land, people and resources of Louisiana,” said CPRA Outreach and Engagement Director, Anne Hawes. “Historically, oyster reefs have played an important role in helping to buffer us from storm surge and erosion. We need more natural protection, and this project helps accomplish that in the most natural way: returning the shells to the estuary to perpetuate more oysters, more reefs, and more protection. For our coast, it is recycling at its best.”

The reef was designed by ORA Estuaries and TNC, and constructed by LeBlanc Marine, LLC. It consists of 434 Gabion baskets, each filled with 4,000 pounds of reclaimed oyster shell. The baskets were partially filled by 300+ volunteers at our Buras storage facility, which is being loaned to CRCL through a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The rest of the baskets were filled and then loaded onto barges by LeBlanc Marine, LLC. It took one day for the barges and construction equipment to travel from Buras, LA, to the reef site and then four days to build the reef. The reef is approximately 20 feet from the shoreline and submerged during high tide. To ensure the safety of boaters and those fishing around the area, the reef is marked with U.S. Coast Guard approved navigation signs. CRCL will actively monitor the growth and health of the reef to determine the long-term success of the project.

“The reef is designed to reduce the effects of wave action along the shoreline,” said Deborah Visco Abibou, CRCL Habitat Restoration Director. “But it has also been constructed with three gaps to allow the free flow of water, fish and other wildlife. This will protect the shoreline, create great habitat for fish and other species, including oysters, and over time may help build land behind it.”

This is just first of many planned projects for CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program. While this was a pilot program, we are planning to continue the program into 2017 and beyond. To make the program sustainable into the future, CRCL’s partner restaurants will now help defray a portion of the cost of shell collection, but that is only a fraction of the money needed. So, we are also looking for Community Sponsors to help ensure that we are able to return as many oyster shells as possible back to Louisiana waters.

About CRCL:

Founded in 1988, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana is the longest standing statewide organization driving bold, science-based action to rebuild Coastal Louisiana through outreach, restoration and advocacy. With the support of members and volunteers, CRCL advocates for strong coastal policies and implements restoration projects across Coastal Louisiana. Visit us at 

About TNC:

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature press on Twitter.