Thursday, January 10, 2008

Alcoa Foundation Awards Grant to Fund Restoration of Oyster Reefs

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Alcoa announced 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, Fla.

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.

Alcoa Foundation is a separately constituted nonprofit U.S. corporate foundation with assets of approximately $534 million. Its mission is to actively invest in the quality of life in Alcoa communities worldwide. Throughout its history, the Foundation has been a source of positive community change and enhancement, with nearly $437 million invested since 1952.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific.

The success of this program will play a critical role in ensuring a healthy coastline in the years ahead and for future generations. Alcoa is a strong supporter of the Nature Conservancy and this grant is a fine example of corporate responsibility.

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