What happens when a bunch of shellfish biologists, creative finance gurus, a few techies and some storytellers get together for a three day workshop in New Orleans? First, they eat a lot of really good oysters. Second, they brainstorm some impressive pathways forward for saving oyster fisheries, farms, and reefs.
And oysters need to be saved. With only 15 percent of oyster reefs remaining (yes, 85 percent have been wiped out), they are the most endangered marine habitat in the world. But saving oyster reefs is not just about oysters—it’s about inventing new ways to restore an ecosystem and the many services it provides: water filtration, fish habitat, coastline protection, and nutrient recycling. It’s a complex problem that intersects sustainable aquaculture (the vast majority of harvested oysters are farmed), restoration ecology, and wild fisheries.
The workshop in New Orleans was one step towards hatching out a strategy for saving oysters. Many ideas were thrown around, from reality TV shows to gaming apps. Within the mix of wild and crazy were the seeds of some truly inspiring and potentially game-changing ideas, including creative financing tools, knowledge exchange platforms, and scaled-up recycling ventures.
For example, Chris Fisher with Fisher recycling includes oyster shell as part of his larger recycling business that includes glass, plastics, electronics, paper and more. The key to adding oyster shell to the list? Dealing with the smell. Fisher recycling uses aesthetically pleasing as well as tightly-sealed containers to minimize any stinky odors. With a dedicated service person committed to every client, they ensure recycling needs of each business can be met. Fisher Recycling operates as a franchise model, which could mean the opportunity to create bigger, better, and yes, profitable shell-recycling efforts may be just over the horizon.
The oyster opportunity continues at SOCAP where Future of Fish will facilitate an interactive workshop on Thursday, September 5th populated with the entrepreneurs who are making waves in the oyster recovery world.