TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — The Tybee Island community is coming together to support the Tybee Island Maritime Academy’s student-led oyster reef restoration project.

Instead of throwing out the leftover shells from their oyster dinner, the Tybee community has been collecting the shells and depositing them in one of the convenient oyster shell recycling bins on the island. One of those bins can now be found at the Public Works Department located at 76 Polk St. on the island.

At least two restaurants, Sea Wolf Tybee and Salt Island Fish & Beer, have begun participating in the project — with more expected to follow.

But how do old oyster shells help restore our local oyster population? Once the shells undergo a curing process, they are used to construct reefs for oyster populations. Young oysters must attach to a hard substrate in order to survive to adulthood. Sometimes, they even attach to other oysters! By building a reef of oyster shells, living oysters can use the hard surface to safely attach and grow into healthy adults that help support the natural ecosystem.

The City of Tybee Island is encouraging individuals and restaurants to donate their used oyster shells because “every shell counts!”