Here's How Louisiana Is Using Oyster Shells to Preserve a Sacred Piece of Shoreline

Meghan Overdeep

This week, 200 tons of shells gathered from New Orleans-area restaurants were transformed into a living shoreline that will protect historical Native American mounds from erosion and sea level rise.

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL), the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe, and more than 100 volunteers spent weeks hauling and placing the salvaged oyster shells on a partially-submerged wall near Montegut, Louisiana, that will act as an artificial reef.

“We have collected a mountain of oyster shells from New Orleans' restaurants that would have ended up in landfills to build our second reef,” CRCL executive director Kimberly Reyher said in a news release. “This is important because oyster reefs act as speed bumps for storms—they provide an important line of defense for our coastal communities.”

In addition to serving as a buffer for rising water levels, the reef will also foster the growth of local marine life, all while helping protect a collection of mounds valued by members of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe.

“Our ancestors made these mounds, so we won’t just stand by while they are washed away,” Pointe-au-Chien member Donald Dardar said in a statement.

WATCH: Oysters Rockefeller

According to The Times-Picayune, returning shells to the Gulf of Mexico’s waters fosters the growth of more oysters, as young oysters prefer to latch onto old shells to start their final stages of development.

CRCL’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program has collected more than 4,115 tons of oyster shells from New Orleans-area restaurants since it began in 2014. CRCL constructed its first oyster reef—a half-mile long reef located in St. Bernard Parish’s Biloxi Marsh—in the fall of 2016.