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How the global pandemic has saved five million oysters

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Kyle Pfau, an oysterman with Fat Dog Shellfish Co., dumps out a tray of adult "Uglie" oysters from Maine onto a relocation area at Great Bay, Monday, May 3, 2021.
Kyle Pfau, an oysterman with Fat Dog Shellfish Co., dumps out a tray of adult "Uglie" oysters from Maine onto a relocation area at Great Bay, Monday, May 3, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Oyster farmers in the US are making money by dumping their catch back into the ocean, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit their market hard.

In the first half of 2020, oyster farmers in New England, US, found that their catch had no place to sell.

"Ninety per cent of the oysters we saw go to restaurants, and so once the restaurants closed, our distributors just said we can't take any, we have no place to send them," explains the founder of Virgin Oyster Company Brian Gennaco.

However, their fortunes changed after a conservation group and several federal agencies hatched a creative scheme to save the industry and 3,000 jobs.

They're buying up 5 million surplus oysters and deploying them onto depleted coastal reefs to reconstruct key marine habitats.

The program – Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration, or SOAR – seeks to restore shellfish reefs at 20 locations in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Washington state in the US.

It is run by non-profit environmental group The Nature Conservancy in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Click on the video above to learn more about this project.