Blue-gloved hands show off oyster shells against the ba
Oyster Spat at Jackson Estuarine Laboratory in Durham © Jennifer Emerling

The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire

Oyster Restoration

Improving the health of New Hampshire's Great Bay Estuary one oyster at a time.

New Hampshire Marine Director Dr. Alix Laferriere (right) inspects oysters from a pulled from floating oyster rafts in Durham, NH.
Oyster Cage Inspection New Hampshire Marine Director Dr. Alix Laferriere (right) inspects oysters from a pulled from floating oyster rafts in Durham, NH. © Jennifer Emerling

The eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) has historically played a vital role in the ecology of Great Bay Estuary. As many as 1,000 acres of live oyster reef may have covered the estuary in 1970, but over 90% of oysters were lost due to pollution, harvest, and disease. Without oysters, Great Bay Estuary is lacking the natural filtration capacity to maintain healthy eelgrass beds and fish nurseries as nitrogen and siltation increase. Now with your help, the oysters are making a big comeback.

The Nature Conservancy and The University of New Hampshire, together with other partners, are teaming up to rebuild degraded oyster reef habitat in the Piscataqua Region Estuary of New Hampshire and Maine. Thanks to support from dedicated members like you, the program has successfully restored more than eighteen acres of reef and 3.5M oysters to the system since 2009. Oysters are an ecological linchpin of the estuary, providing essential fish habitat and water quality regulation services. In recent years the team has scaled-up efforts,  with as much as five acres and 1 million oysters restored annually.

From the volunteer oyster conservationists who raise young spat in cages off their docks to the scientists who reconstruct historic reef sites for the juvenile oysters to call home, our approach literally takes a village.

Oyster Program Downloads

  • Fact sheet on New Hampshire's Oyster Restoration By Design initiative.

    Oyster Restoration By Design

    (9.07 MB PDF)

    Exactly what goes into restoring oysters in the Great Bay Estuary and its tributaries? Here's the plan and how it works.

    DOWNLOAD
  • An overview of New Hampshire's Oyster Conservation Volunteer Program.

    Oyster Conservation Fact Sheet

    (999.16 KB PDF)

    Curious about the process of being an Oyster Conservationist? Take a peek at this all-in-one fact sheet detailing the volunteer "life cycle."

    DOWNLOAD
  • A timeline of our oyster restoration and conservation efforts in New Hampshire.

    NH Oyster Restoration Timeline

    (689.84 KB PDF)

    How our oysters restored to the Great Bay Estuary? It literally takes a village. Here's how it all comes together.

    DOWNLOAD
  • New Hampshire Oyster Conservationist Program's Final Report for the 2018 Season

    NH Oyster Conservation Report

    (1.16 MB PDF)

    The American oyster is definitely the most valuable creature in the Great Bay Estuary. But due to pollution, harvest and disease we have lost over 90% of our reefs. Our volunteers are helping to turn the tide. Here's how it's going.

    DOWNLOAD