Restaurant on 66th Street recycles oyster shells, gets tax credit and recognition

(Oct. 18, 2019) Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot visited Roger Cebula, owner of the Skye Bar & Grille on 66th Street last Wednesday to present a proclamation for his effort to recycle oyster shells over the years at the restaurant.

Cebula and several other restaurants in Ocean City have been recycling oyster shells, which could be used as a part of the Maryland Oyster Shell Recycling Tax Credit.

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Skye Bar & Grille owner Roger Cebula receives a proclamation from the Comptroller of Maryland for the many years he has recycled oyster shells for the Oyster Recovery Partnership on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at his 66th Street eatery. Pictured, from left, are Andy Harris representative Bill Reddish, Del. Wayne Hartman, Cebula and Comptroller Peter Franchot.

Cebula and his restaurant have been recycling oyster shells since the inception of the tax credit in 2010. The restaurateur was humbled and shocked to receive the award.

“It’s important for the growth of the oysters,” Cebula said. “We’ve collected hundreds of thousands of oyster shells over the years.”

An individual or corporation may claim a credit against the state income tax in an amount equal to $5 for each bushel of oyster shells recycled during the tax year. This credit cannot exceed $1,500 per taxpayer.

The tax credit was designed to help ensure a population boost for the Chesapeake Bay oysters. Shells that otherwise would be dumped in landfills are recycled, cleaned, introduced to baby oysters, which fuse to the shells and put back into the Chesapeake Bay.

“Our bay was once so rich with oyster beds, ships had to navigate around them,” Franchot said. “But today, we are struggling to keep our bay clean and our oyster populations thriving, even as they are vital to both our economy and our environment.

“Right now, we have about 300 million adult oysters in the bay,” he continued. “Twenty years ago, we had 600 million, so we’re going in the wrong direction. My goal is to get it up to one billion.”

Just one adult oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day.

Infant oysters latch onto the shells of adult oysters in order to mature, and begin their own filtering process, which is why the Oyster Recovery Partnership created the Shell Recycling Alliance in 2010.

Comptroller Franchot and the Oyster Recovery Partnership have worked together to collect old shells and repopulate the oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.

Currently, Oyster Recovery Partnership is the nation’s largest shell recycling network, annually collecting 33,000 bushels of shell from nearly 350 restaurants and 70 public drop sites in the mid-Atlantic region.

Since the Alliance’s launch, Oyster Recovery Partnership has reclaimed 190,000 bushels of shell, which equates to 6,650 tons kept out of area landfills, approximately $300,000 saved by local businesses in waste collection fees, and enough substrate to support the planting of 950 million oysters in local waters.

Currently, there are 10 restaurants in Ocean City that are part of the Shell Recycling Alliance – Blu Crabhouse and Raw Bar on 23rd Street, Bull on the Beach on 94th Street and Second Street, Crab Alley in West Ocean City, Embers Restaurant on 23rd Street, Fager’s Island on 60th Street, Harrison’s Harbor Watch at South Atlantic Avenue on the Boardwalk, Marlin Moon Restaurant on 33rd Street, Ropewalk on 82nd Street, Skye Bar and Watermen’s Seafood in West Ocean City.

Franchot presented the proclamation to Cebula in recognition for Skye Bar & Grille’s dedication to the project.

“Skye Bar has been a part of this program and that is why today, I am honored to present a proclamation recognizing you for your longstanding support of our environment, while running a great local, small and beloved restaurant,” he said. “Thank you so much for all that you do.”

Del. Wayne Hartman was also in attendance and extended his own gratitude.

“We spent a lot of time in the General Assembly talking about oysters – I learned more about oysters than I ever thought I would in school – but people taking advantage of this tax break and getting the oyster shells is [great],” Hartman said. “The biggest problem we have is capturing the oyster shells back for the oysters to get attached to and continue the health of the oyster population, so it was a big deal in the General Assembly this year and to hear [Cebula] taking advantage of it is great.”

To claim the tax credit, individuals or enterprises must receive certification from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which verifies the amount of oyster shells recycled during the year.

For more information about how to claim tax credit, call the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at 410-260-8300.

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