Miami’s Watershed Action Lab partners with restaurants to help oysters

Miami’s Biscayne Bay is the largest estuary on Florida’s southeast coast, home to a complex ecosystem of wildlife, including oysters. Although they are a popular seafood dish in South Florida, their role in cleaning and maintaining the waters of Biscayne Bay is even more important.

A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day by removing excess nitrogen and absorbing it into its shell and tissues as it grows. But if the bay’s oyster population is overfished and not replenished, there is a risk of pollution reaching dangerous levels.

A South Florida organization is partnering with several South Florida restaurants to start an oyster restocking program. Watershed Action Lab volunteers collect discarded oyster shells from restaurants and bring them back to Biscayne Bay, with the goal of creating new habitat for future generations of oysters.

One participating restaurant is Peacock Garden in Coconut Grove. “One of the Watershed Action Lab volunteers and restaurant regulars stopped by the restaurant and asked if we wanted to participate,” says owner Lalo Durazo. “We thought it was a great opportunity to contribute to the environment and give back to the community, so they started coming to the restaurant and pledged to collect seashells every week.”

After Watershed Action Lab volunteers collect the shells, they are cleaned and added to oyster lines, then returned to the bay where the baby oysters will eventually attach themselves to create an oyster reef – which at its tower will help naturally filter pollutants from Biscayne Bay.

Alberto “Tico” Aran, founder of Watershed Action Lab, says the organization has also worked with Michael’s Genuine and Kush by Spillover restaurants. The group relies on the work of volunteers to keep the program going, and Aran says there are many ways South Florida residents can lend a hand.

“South Floridians can donate funds so we can advance the mission to heal Biscayne Bay using citizen science and community action,” says Aran. “We are always looking for volunteers to collect oyster shells from a local restaurant. People can also build oyster lines with their school, business, or other community group, or volunteer their dock so we can add oyster lines for the project.

Aran has already had success with the oyster restocking program. Using a mobile app that monitors oyster populations in the bay, Aran says volunteers recently found five populations of oyster beds near East Greynolds Park in North Biscayne Bay that weren’t previously documented by any organization, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Watershed Action Lab and Peacock Garden partnership represents a growing trend in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Community leaders and restaurant owners are realizing the power of community and collaboration that is necessary for South Florida’s sustainable future.

“We are happy to work with such a great organization as Watershed Action Lab and are always looking for different ways to help support our community. Biscayne Bay is right in the backyard of Peacock Garden,” says Durazo, “so we do what we can to make sure our waters stay clean.

Comments are closed.