OXON HILL — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot took some time out of his schedule to publicly recognize a local eatery for its sustainable practices and locally sourced food items.
The National Harbor’s Walrus Oyster and Ale House was honored with a proclamation presented by Franchot in a brief ceremony on Dec. 6 for its oyster shell recycling efforts through the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s (ORP) Shell Recycling Alliance.
Not only do recycled shells used by aqua farms stimulate oyster production, but adult oysters filter an estimated 50 to 60 gallons of water a day to promote a cleaner Chesapeake Bay, according to Franchot. The restaurant, part of the Star Restaurant Group, has been in operation for five years and specializes in providing a variety of locally sourced seafood in addition to craft beers and tap wines.
“The proclamation said that we salute Walrus for partnering with the Oyster Recovery Partnership. That means that they recycle hundreds of bushels of used oyster shells,” Franchot said. “We have about 300 million adult oysters in the Maryland part of the Chesapeake Bay; we need to get up to a billion in the next few years. That’s why we’re promoting this shell recycling.”
The ORP’s Shell Recycling Alliance initiative has led to a more cost-effective way for the state to promote the health of the Chesapeake Bay in addition to commending sustainable measures taken by various businesses and establishments, Franchot highlighted.
Accepting the recognition was Jason Fleming, a partner with the Star Restaurant Group, and Walrus Oyster and Ale assistant general managers Carla Sevilla and Natalie Van Fleet.
Businesses who recycle enough oyster shells can claim the Oyster Shell Recycling Tax of up to $1,500 a year, of which Walrus Oyster and Ale is a recipient. A bushel is roughly 9.5 gallons, and the eatery recycled about 800 bushels in 2018 according to Fleming.
“It’s always great to get recognized by the state; residents as well too. Any time you can be recognized for doing things that we just culturally want to do a sa part of our restaurant group, it’s definitely an honor,” Fleming said.
“We’re just trying to be as responsible as we can, source as locally as we can, and definitely contribute to the local economy and support Maryland businesses the best we can.”
ORP, the nation’s largest shell recycling network according to its website, is based in Annapolis and collects shells from about 300 seafood establishments throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, according to Tommy Price, the program’s operations manager.
Price said the ORP regularly collects large quantities of oyster shells from Walrus and makes about 100 visits annually to the restaurant, which also has a location in Columbia.
Though Walrus takes advantage of the business tax credit, that is not the primary reason the establishment recycles shells, Fleming said.
“We don’t do it for accolades, we do it just to give back and support local businesses the best we can,” he concluded.