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The World Is Not Your Oyster…Unless You Recycle the Shell

Kingsmill Resort in Virginia helps conserve native oysters

Kingsmill Resort,

Shakespeare meant well when he penned the famous quote “the world is your oyster” in The Merry Wives of Windsor, but it turns out things aren’t so merry for the oysters in some places.

Kingsmill Resort, located on the James River in Williamsburg, Va., procures more than 35,000 oysters a year, given they are a local and regional staple that resort visitors love to eat. So did the early Native Americans, apparently. The resort grounds still contain the remnants of a Native American settlement easily identified by the mounds of oyster shells that were harvested from the river.

However, the supply of oysters doesn’t last forever. If you keep taking oysters out of the river, there may be none left for future generations. So the resort is now working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to restore native oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Instead of throwing the used oyster shells into a landfill or turning them into composting fertilizer for the resort’s golf course, as was previously done, Kingsmill now donates used shells taken from its restaurants to help with the 10-year-old CBF reef restoration project.

Spearheaded by Chef Emily Woodruff, her team collects more than 300 oyster shells a day during peak season from the resort’s James Landing Grille adding up to about 70,000 shells a season. These used shells are returned to the waterways to rehabilitate and build new oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Oyster reefs not only facilitate the growth of new oysters but also provide valuable habitat for numerous species of marine organisms. Plus, the new oysters, in turn, help clean up the estuary by filtering dirty waterways.

“Thousands of bushels of recycled oyster shells are turned into habitats for millions of oysters planted in the bay and its rivers,” says Woodruff. “Once the recycled shells are cleaned and cured, CBF places them in huge water tanks containing millions of microscopic oyster larvae, which then attach to the shells. On average, each recycled shell can become home to dozens of those baby oysters, called spat. CBF provides the spat-on-shell to its oyster gardeners and plants them in rivers and the bay to grow and expand oyster reefs.”

During the season, the James Landing Grill displays a big chalkboard with a map of the bay and the Eastern Shore, which tries to highlight three different oyster regions each day. People like to know about which area or creek each one is from and the difference in flavors.

“We always strive to provide our guests with sustainable choices on our menu,” said Michael Gordon, Sustainability and Risk Manager for Kingsmill Resort. “With this program, they also help enhance and protect the water quality and diversity of life in the Chesapeake Bay, a national treasure and the nursery for the Atlantic Ocean.”

For more information and reservations at Kingsmill, visit kingsmill.com or call 800-832-5665.


Written By: Claudia Rinaldi

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