By Meg Walburn Viviano
It’s a holiday that most Chesapeake Bay enthusiasts can get behind: National Oyster Weekend, a time when we’re encouraged to seek out oyster dishes at restaurants that recycle used shells for oyster restoration projects.
Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP), the Annapolis-based oyster restoration nonprofit, has expanded National Oyster Day (Aug. 5) into a whole weekend of oyster specials, with help from a 2021 proclamation by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
Many restaurants that are members of the Shell Recycling Alliance, the nation’s largest shell recycling network, are offering promotions like buy one, get one free, drink pairings, or special dishes throughout the weekend. Participating restaurants and oyster bars range in location from Baltimore County to Salisbury to Alexandria.
Even Guinness Open Gate Brewery, the beermaker’s only U.S. brewery, is in on the action with oyster and beer specials.
Many of us order oysters to slurp and don’t think much about what happens to the shells when the plates are cleared from the table. But restaurants who commit to recycling shells with ORP or the Chesapeake Bay Foundation can make a big impact.
The Irish Restaurant Company has four restaurants in Anne Arundel County participating in National Oyster Weekend. All four recycle their shells for oyster restoration.
The restaurant group tells us, “Galway Bay (downtown Annapolis) alone shucked 391⁄2 bushels of oyster shells as a member of the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Shell Recycling Alliance. Those shells will support the planting of 197,740 oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.”
Recycled shells are critial for ORP to plant new oyster spat onto before they are deposited in protected sanctuary reefs, bolstering oyster populations and filtering the water to improve the quality of the Chesapeake Bay.
“By dining in one of the restaurants supporting the Shell Recycling Alliance, you’re helping to restore the Chesapeake Bay, one shuck at a time,” says Paul Schurick, director of ORP partnerships.
Find the full list of participating restaurants in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.: oysterrecovery.org/ national-oyster-day-2022/.
If you’d like to recycle your own oysters eaten at home, ORP also has 70 public drop sites in the mid-Atlantic region