A critical need and a creative response: That describes the work The Nature Conservancy and partners are doing to explore the potential for restoring oyster beds in southeastern Massachusetts’ beautiful Buzzards Bay.
Oysters provide incredibly important services, including food and habitat for birds and marine life, as well as sustenance and recreation for people who harvest wild oysters. Oyster beds also buffer coastlines from waves and improve water quality by filtering impurities.
Globally, though, 85 percent of oyster reefs have been lost: Intense harvesting, pollution, disease and degraded conditions have combined to make them Earth’s most severely impacted marine habitat.
In Massachusetts, with your help, we’re finding out what will be needed to help restore beds in Buzzards Bay.
The premise? Basic good business. Before committing money and people to a serious oyster-restoration effort, we should have the clearest idea possible of what’s needed for success. For this, we need to learn more about the bay’s population of baby wild oysters and the challenges it faces.
The approach? This is where things get a little creative.
To survive, young oysters—called spat—attach themselves to hard surfaces. From there, the successful ones grow into mature oysters.
Ceramic tiles are perfect surfaces for baby oysters to attach. So we’re using a simple—and simply odd-looking—tool imagined by colleagues in North Carolina and adapted here: hand-made wild oyster spat collectors made of weighted PVC, plastic ties and, yes, ceramic tiles.
Early this summer, the Conservancy’s Southeastern Massachusetts project manager, Casey Shetterly, braved cold water and spring rains—including sideways downpours—to place a total of nine spat collectors in three locations in Buzzards Bay.
Since then, Shetterly and our partners at the Buzzards Bay Coalition have been collecting the tiles every few weeks to see what’s become attached. Is there enough spat? Is it healthy? Are there too many predators, like moon snails and green crabs?
“Our intent is a bay-wide understanding of the oyster populations in an effort to restore an ecologically and culturally significant natural resource to Buzzards Bay,” Shetterly says. “We’re excited to be working with the coalition and the towns of Fairhaven, Gosnold and Wareham to help make this happen.”
Results are due by the end of the year.
We’ll keep you posted