a crab with blue legs on the concrete outdoors
December 20, 2022

Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana's Oyster Shell Program

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is the first of its kind, and like Chefs Brigade, this nonprofit organization was borne out of disaster. 

Chefs Brigade and its restaurant partners worked together to fight food insecurity and aid the struggling New Orleans restaurant industry during the Covid pandemic.  In 1988, CRCL became Louisiana’s first nonprofit dedicated to addressing coastal land loss. Today it is a multifaceted organization that advocates for policy; educates future leaders; connects experts, the public and government officials; and is actively working to restore coastal habitats and build oyster reefs.

“We’re best known for being an organization that brings people together to address and solve coastal land loss,” says James Karst, CRCL’s director of communications. 

With both organizations utilizing the power of people to confront shared problems, it’s not surprising that CRCL and CB would become partners. And CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program has proven to be beneficial for both organizations like oyster reefs growing, thriving and protecting the Louisiana coastline.

CRCL volunteers use simple tools to place oyster shell(s) in marine-grade mesh bags in preparation for its return to the waters of coastal Louisiana. The shell is processed at CRCL’s Restoration Headquarters in Violet (St. Bernard Parish).

CRCL’s program, which uses discarded oyster shells to build reefs, has recycled more than 10.5 million pounds of shells and protected over 8,000 feet of shoreline along the coast since it began in 2014. CRCL collects the shells from New Orleans-area restaurants and with more than 90 restaurants in the Brigade, CB is a fertile resource for shell collection. CB started sponsoring member restaurants in May 2021, and to date, our partner restaurants have recycled 233,932 pounds or 115.2 tons of oyster shells. 

CRCL’s Executive Director Kimberly Davis Reyher says the collaboration is a great example of their mission of bringing people together to help solve coastal land loss.

“Partnering with Chefs Brigade has allowed us to add more restaurants to the program, which has allowed us to collect more shell, and restore more oyster reef,” says Davis Reyher. “And the bottom line is that that means restoring more of the coast.”

CB’s Troy Gilbert points out that another CB program, Chefs on Boats, allows restaurant staff and others to see firsthand the results of oyster shell recycling.

“As part of the Chefs on Boats coastal tour, we show our members not only the coastal land loss that Louisiana is experiencing, but also efforts like CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program are helping to rebuild the coast.”

So remember the next time you sit down for a cold dozen of raw oysters at a participating New Orleans restaurant, you’re eating the world’s best oysters and restoring the coast. Quite a bargain.

Volunteers travel by boat to a reef site, then place the bags of oyster shells into the water.

Volunteers and members of the Pointe-au-Chien tribe toss shell bags into the water to build a reef. The wall of shell beneath the surface acts as a wave break to slow erosion of the soft soil.

This oyster reef at Bayou Pointe-au-Chien was built by volunteers in partnership with the Pointe-au-Chien Indian tribe.

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