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Wellfleet OysterFest shells to be dumped back into harbor Empty Wellfleet OysterFest shells to be dumped back into harbor

Post  Betep on Wed Oct 19, 2011 1:10 am

Wellfleet OysterFest shells to be dumped back into harbor
By Eric Williams
October 18, 2011

WELLFLEET — When the slurpers finished, the recyclers took over.

Most of the shells from the approximately 126,000 oysters and 32,000 clams eaten during this weekend's Wellfleet OysterFest were gathered in two large containers Monday morning — an imposing heap flavored with the occasional lemon wedge.

The giant reminder of recent good times was destined for a glorious afterlife in the Duck Creek area of Wellfleet Harbor, tossed back into the briny deep to provide grounds for new oysters to grow, improve water quality and perhaps increase possibilities for commercial harvest.

After being weighed at the transfer station, the first container was dumped onto a barge at the town pier. For a few minutes it was raining oysters as two tons of shells tumbled into a hopper on the boat.

All in all, OysterFest organizers estimated that about six tons of shells will be recycled, nearly 90 percent of those consumed during the bivalve frenzy.

"This is the first time in the country that oyster shells will be recycled directly back into the water," said Curt Felix of the town's wastewater management planning committee. "Normally that's not allowed by regulation due to disease risk or transfer, but in Wellfleet we tag and track everything, so that we know this all came from Wellfleet, so there's no risk."

And the upside seems huge.

Because of the recycling effort, there should be an additional 500,000 to 700,000 oysters that "otherwise would have died on the shell," said Felix, who, like a proud papa, proceeded to show off the multitude of baby oysters, or spat. The new bed of shells provides something that floating oyster spat can adhere to, kind of a nursery for newborns.

An increased oyster population in the harbor area means better water quality. Adult oysters can filter 50 gallons of water a day, Felix said. "They're eating algae that would otherwise be too prolific and cause reduced oxygen levels, kill fish and that sort of thing," he added.

Wellfleet shellfish constable Andrew Koch called the recycling plan "cool."

"We've already got baby oysters," said Koch, pointing at the huge pile of shells. "If we get them back in the water, they'll live."

A spot of motor trouble meant the shells couldn't be dunked on Monday, but Koch said they will likely hit the water sometime in the next few days.

As for OysterFest, early reports from organizers indicate that it may have been the biggest ever. Tracy Davenport, treasurer of the nonprofit organization Shellfish Promotion and Tasting (SPAT) that runs the two-day festival, called attendance "exceptional."

"It looked like miles, a sea of people, looking up on stage and having a great time," said Davenport. The financial success of this year's event could lead to an increase in SPAT community grants, she said.

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