Alcoa Foundation Awards $200K Grant to South Carolina Nature Conservancy

Alcoa announced today that the Alcoa Foundation has awarded a $200,000 grant to the South Carolina Nature Conservancy to initiate a multi-year oyster restoration program. The program is part of The Nature Conservancy’s global mission to protect the Temperate Western Atlantic Coast, which extends from the Gulf of Maine to the Cape Canaveral, FL.

The coast is critical habitat for migratory shorebirds such as Red Knots, raptors, waterfowl, and neotropical songbirds. However, significant areas of the coastline are threatened by development, habitat conversion and global climate change. Conserving ocean and coastal ecosystems will improve water quality, protect diverse marine habitat and benefit economies and livelihoods of coastal communities for generations to come.

“We are extremely grateful to Alcoa Foundation for its generosity,” said Mark Robertson, from the SC Nature Conservancy. “Oysters have a unique role in tidal habitats, because they create living reefs that support not just themselves but some 130 other species. With this grant we can increase the number of oysters in South Carolina waters, builds oyster reefs to decrease erosion along salt marsh, and boosts recycling of oyster shells cast off by restaurants, seafood suppliers and the public.”

With the Alcoa Foundation grant, the SC Nature Conservancy will start a new restoration program that benefits commercial and recreational fisherman, coastal citizens, and the tourism industry by building and protecting oyster reefs through science, market-based strategies, restoration and resilient habitat protection.

It has been estimated that only seven percent of South Carolina’s oyster shells are recycled through existing programs. Finding ways to put cast-off shells back into reefs is one part of the program. Other plans include prioritizing restoration sites through analysis of current and historic oyster locations, habitat parameters and ownership/leasing status.

“We’re pleased that Alcoa Foundation is able to help kickstart an oyster reef restoration program here in South Carolina, said Mark Dunlay, Location Manager for Alcoa’s Mt. Holly operation in Berkeley County. “The success of this program will help ensure a healthy coast well into the future.”

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