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'It's just a good, rewarding project here:' Recycled oyster shells go in the Inlet

Recycled oyster shells go in the Inlet (Madeline Montgomery/WPDE)

Hundreds of bags of oyster shells, 350 to be exact, all went back in the water where they came from as part of an oyster reef habitat project.

"Two or three hours and you've done a very impactful project," said Chris Hawley, the Murrells Inlet Coastal Conservation Association chairman.

Hawley is not sure exactly how many shells he has dealt with.

"There's probably another 13-14 hundred bags of shells, so over the last five or six years, we've probably put out around 6,000 pounds of shell out here," said Hawley.

But he is sure the work he and volunteers are doing is helping

"We dry them out, we bag them in biodegradable bags and we put them out in the creek so we can grow new oysters," said Hawley.

"Ultimately it's helping the oysters first and foremost and they are a vital, critical habitat to a host of species," said Micahel Hodges, a wildlife biologist with SCDNR.

Oyster larvae grow in the old shells and draw in other marine life.

"A lot of the fish that are commercially and recreationally important are utilizing these oyster reefs," said Hodges.

So shells collected from restaurants or recycled by the public are helping fishermen make their next catch.

"A lot of these folks are living in and around Murrells Inlet. They utilize it for recreational purposes and they see the value that this estuary provides to their local environment," said Hodges.

"It's just a good, rewarding project here in the inlet," said Hawley.

A project Hawley plans to keep doing every year.

If you want to recycle your oyster shells, there is a list of drop off locations on SCDNR's website.

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