A group of restaurants in Dubai is recycling oyster shells consumed by customers, returning them to the sea, as part of a project to help maintain and support the local reef system.
The Maine New England Brasserie Company has three locations in Dubai and is considered the region’s largest supplier of oysters. He was sending over 50,000 oyster shells to the dump every month.
Since the creation of the Dubai Oyster Project, the restaurant informs its customers, when ordering, that the shells are part of a recovery initiative driven by the local community.
Founder and managing partner Joey Ghazal explains that seashells are now being used to create artificial reefs in the sea.
“When we tell our customers that somehow the oysters they eat go back to the sea, that each regenerating oyster can filter almost 230 liters of water a day, and that contributes to a better environment, they really feel they are doing something positive.
Maine has partnered with a local eco-school and marine group to return these seashells to the sea.
The collaboration between the three parties was made possible by Fadi Abu Ghali, a businessman from Dubai, co-founder of the project.
Fadi Abu Ghali tells Euronews that he wanted to find a solution to be able to take advantage of the shells that were sent to the dump.
“I am a board member of Arbor School and have worked with the United Arab Emirates Marine Environment Group for about 18 years. So I thought I would put the pieces together and create a great story that combines several things, such as education, the environment and the problem of food waste,” he says.
The project aims to rehabilitate the natural reef system off Dubai to promote marine biodiversity and create a natural habitat for the endangered hawksbill turtle.
The Arbor School in Dubai follows a unique curriculum in environmental education, and its students, aged 12 to 13, study the oceanography of the United Arab Emirates.
The class, in conjunction with the Oyster Project, fills abandoned fish traps (locally known as “gargoors”) with oyster shells. Recycled seashells will provide structures in which marine life can thrive.
Ben Wren, environmental education consultant for Arbor School, sees this as a unique opportunity to take the curriculum out of the classroom and into the real world.
“All our students spend time on the beach and are very familiar with the issues of the marine environment. The group has already developed certain parts of the reef”, he adds.
“To be able to monitor it more easily, the children are now building sample boxes which will be attached to the reef and which we can take out of the water and examine on the beach, when the time comes, with specialized equipment,” he explains.
The sample boxes will allow students to get a closer look at what is happening on these new reefs.
The long-term plan is to make The Oyster Project an ongoing part of the school curriculum.
“Our goal is to come back in about six months with this group of students and with other students, who are a year younger than them, to take over,” says Ben Wren.
With support from the United Arab Emirates Marine Environment Group (EMEG), students from the school placed and then supervised the development of the structures.
The so-called “gargoors” will be transformed into biological building blocks and placed in the EMEG reserve. If the project is successful, it will be extended to other areas outside the reserve.
Iman is one of the Arbor School students involved in the project, and she says she enjoys learning about the problems that exist in society and how they can be solved.
“It’s very interesting, because in most schools you don’t do so many practical things. Above all, you learn theory. And that can only go a long way. Doing things in real life, it’s much more practical,” he says. at Euronews.
His colleague Floris says that some of the things he loves most about the project is being outside the classroom environment and being able to make a difference. “I think it’s great. We use them and recycle them. It’s like an ecological cycle,” he says.
Another student, Janelle, adds that she likes the practical side of her involvement in the project. “You don’t think your action can have an impact until you do. Doing something big like this is really fun. And you can see it unfold.”
It is estimated that in the past six months, Maine has donated 250,000 oyster shells to the Arbor School. The goal is for this figure to reach one million by the end of 2022.