The City Magazine Since 1975

Reef Madness

October 2018
Reef Madness
WRITER: 

Shucking, cracking, cleaning, and casting with Toadfish Outfitters’ goods benefits the coastal ecosystem 

Toadfish Outfitters CEO Casey Davidson at an oyster shell recycling site run by SCDNR. Toadfish’s “Put ‘Em Back” oyster knife (A), crab claw cutter (B), and “Frogmore” shrimp cleaner (C) are available at toadfishoutfitters.com.

Most companies begin with an idea for a product—a good or service that fills a gap in the market. Not Toadfish Outfitters. It was born from Casey Davidson’s desire to fix a problem in the environment. “Being on the water is my passion,” says the Beaufort native. “But it wasn’t until I worked as an intern lobbyist for the Coastal Conservation Association [CCA] that I really recognized the importance of water quality to the health of a saltwater ecosystem.”

Davidson wanted to create a business that would benefit local waters. After spending a decade working in outdoor-industry product development and design, he was ready to launch Toadfish Outfitters. It would specifically spread awareness about oysters—which can filter up to 50 gallons of saltwater per day—and raise funds for organizations that use recycled shells to rehabilitate reefs. He spent a year developing the first product: the ultra-efficient “Put ’Em Back” oyster knife, which debuted in February 2017. For each item sold, Toadfish promises to build 10 square feet of oyster beds by donating to the CCA, SC Department of Natural Resources, and like-minded organizations from Virginia to Texas.

(Left) Volunteers build new reefs using the shells; (Right) Shells ready to be returned to the water by the VCU Rice Rivers Center.

Garnering attention from publications such as Food & Wine and Garden & Gun, the business grew quickly, introducing a shrimp tool, shucking cloth, Toadfish Inshore fishing rod, and—as of October 1—a crab claw cutter, all made using recycled plastics. Sales via more than 400 boutique retailers and 100-some Sur La Table stores have led to more than $50,000 in donations. “But that’s not enough,” says Davidson. “We have lofty goals that include oyster recycling and restoration programs in every coastal state, resulting in hundreds of thousands of new reefs over the next 10 years.”

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Shell Seekers 

Why rebuild oyster beds? Here’s the short answer

- An adult oyster can filter 2.5 gallons of water per hour, improving water quality. Oyster reefs also provide habitat for other marine life and aid in erosion control.

- According to the SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), our state has a critical shortage of oyster shell. The crustaceans are being harvested faster than they can regrow.

- Like other organizations Toadfish supports, SCDNR collects empty oyster shells from the public and uses them to rebuild oyster beds. Find a list of area recycling locations at saltwaterfishing.sc.gov.

Resources: 

Photographs by (Casey Davidson) Sarah Alsati & courtesy of (5) Toadfish Outfitters