(Originally Published: July 2014)
Now in its ninth year, our Oyster Conservationist Volunteer Program has reached a new milestone: 75 families around Great Bay and its tributaries! With 25 brand new families, this is a 50% increase from last year and the largest group to date!
Oyster Conservationist (OC) volunteers are responsible for raising baby oysters (called spat) in cages off their dock or mooring over ten weeks during the summer. In addition to cleaning cages and tending to their babies, the volunteers collect valuable data that helps support oyster restoration efforts across Great Bay and its tributaries.
“This summer our OC’s tenderly cared for their young oyster spat,” says Kara McKeton, Marine Restoration Coordinator and manager of the program. “They kept them safe from hungry crab claws, took measurements, and produced thousands of healthy juvenile oysters to add to our 4.5-acre restoration reef in western Great Bay.”
One of this year’s highlights is the expansion of the program into Maine waters. New sites in Kittery, Kittery Point, and Eliot broadened the program’s reach to 14 towns across the seacoast. Local businesses are also getting involved. The Gundalow Company, Normandeau Associates and Wentworth By The Sea Marina all had sites this year.
“I have already heard the program serve as a great conversation topic among OC’s with their friends and families,” says Kara. “My hope is that this project will continue to be a fun conversation topic to help spread the word about the incredible filtration capacity of oysters and offer a simple way for local residents to make a difference by cleaning the water and improving fish habitat.”