BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The COVID-19 pandemic could lead to an oyster shortage in the Chesapeake Bay, but the Shell Recycling Alliance is hoping to change that.

The group collects thousands of oyster shells in the region, which are then used to grow baby oysters.

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The more shells they can collect, the more oysters they can plant.

“We collect from over 300 restaurants and a lot of drop sites like this throughout Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and D.C.,” Tommy Price, the group’s manager, told WJZ while picking up shells in Baltimore.

The pandemic has had a “dramatic impact” on his pickups, he said. With less activity in restaurant kitchens, there are fewer shells to pick up and reuse.

Many customers who are still ordering oysters are taking them to-go, and then the shells end up in their home trash cans.

The Shell Recycling Alliance wants to “get the citizens to recycle their oyster shells from ones they take from takeout menus,” Price said.

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There are more than 70 public drop-off sites, and restaurants that take part can qualify for tax credits.

Every effort counts, Price said.

“With every oyster shell we collect, that’s ten baby oysters,” he said.

A higher oyster population also means a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.

“Oysters are important because they filter the water, they’re also a habitat for a variety of marine critters,” Price said.

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To learn more about the effort, click here.

Annie Rose Ramos