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Turning the Tide in Tisbury Great Pond

“The Conservancy’s long-term goal is to restore these ecosystem services that have been lost to Massachusetts estuaries …”
- Jon Kachmar, Nature Conservancy scientist

For decades, the native Eastern oyster could be found in abundance at Tisbury Great Pond on Martha’s Vineyard. Now those populations are merely a fraction of their former glory. Building off of our work in Wellfleet, we hope to turn the tide and help oysters once again flourish in these waters.

To help stem and reverse decline, the Conservancy and partners, including the towns of West Tisbury and Chilmark and the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, have completed restoring a 1-acre oysterbed in Tisbury Great Pond.

Intended to kick-start a self-sustaining wild oyster reef, the project augments successful ongoing reef restoration efforts in the pond. It will also serve as a model for future projects in the Commonwealth.

“We know healthy oyster beds filter water, remove polluting nutrients and provide important fish habitat — services with environmental and economic value,” says Jon Kachmar, the Conservancy’s southeast Massachusetts program director.

“The Conservancy’s long-term goal is to restore these ecosystem services that have been lost to Massachusetts estuaries as historic oyster beds have been destroyed by disease, overharvest and poor water quality.”

Divers placed oyster spat (larvae) on the new reef in late summer and we will monitor the bed over the next two years. The net result we hope to see is about 125,000 more oysters in the ecosystem, which will grow to help support a healthy, sustainable Tisbury Great Pond.

Above: Staff from the Conservancy and partners prepare a barge of shells for Tisbury Great Pond, where it will help juvenile oysters as a surface for growth. The juvenile oysters, called spat, attach to the shells and grow to adulthood, helping to filter the pond’s waters. Photo © C.Aumer/ Martha’s Vineyard Times

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