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Group collects oyster shells to help restore habitat
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Jon Seagraves, president of the Richmond Hill chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association of Georgia, right, stands Tuesday with Coastal Habitat Committee member and local fisherman Bob Barnette at the oyster shell recycling location off Highway 144 in South Bryan near Sterling Creek. - photo by Crissie Elric

While many people have begun to reduce, reuse and recycle in efforts to “go green,” residents in Bryan County now have the opportunity to recycle and reuse a sometimes overlooked item.

As part of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Georgia, the Coastal Habitat Committee (CHC) is working with the new CCA Richmond Hill Chapter to collect and recycle oyster shells and reuse them to build up and enhance oyster beds off the coast of Georgia.

Local fisherman Capt. Bob Barnette is a member of the CHC and is helping with the effort in Bryan County, where he and others hope to enhance oyster habitats in the South Bryan area. Other areas the group is concentrating on are the north end of Liberty County and the south end of Chatham County, he said.

Barnette said he started working with the project in June after seeing how well similar efforts worked on the coast of Alabama and Mississippi.

“Just talking to some of the people running the project over there and them telling me what it can do for the environment, and being a fisherman, I see what it can do for us,” he said.

In addition to helping rebuild the oyster habitats, recycling their shells helps keep them out of landfills, which keep growing by “leaps and bounds,” he said.

Barnette said it is important to keep oyster habitats alive because they are an asset to the environment and coastal waters. Not only do oyster beds help prevent erosion, they also help with pollution.

“One live (adult) oyster filters 50 gallons of water a day, so they are a great asset as far as pollution and helping out our environment — besides the fact that they’re good to eat,” he said.
Barnette noted oyster habitats are also important for the future of fisheries.

“If we don’t do something now, our children’s children will not have the fisheries that we have,” he said.

There is currently one collection site in Bryan County at Sterling Creek off of Highway 144. Another collection site is at the boat ramp off Islands Expressway in Savannah, and organizers are hoping to have a collection site established soon in Liberty County.

Read more in the Jan. 11 edition of the News.

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