A piece of Rhode Island oyster reef held by Chris Littlefield, Director of Block Island & Marine Projects.
Rhode Island’s first colonists would be shocked to see today’s coast: once vast oyster beds are gone from our waters. In the years since native Americans and colonists lived along the coast, overharvesting, pollution, sedimentation, and disease have taken their toll on abundant wild oyster populations in Rhode Island and all over the world.
The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island is teaming up with scientists, state agencies, shellfish processors, and oyster bars to bring wild oysters back to the Ocean State with a new project called “Oysters Gone Wild”. In the last decade significant efforts have been made by many organizations to plant hatchery reared adult oysters in Rhode Island waters in order to restore populations of reproducing oysters. The Conservancy believes that thanks to the successes of these efforts the time is now right to attempt to restore suitable substrate in estuaries, in this case large volumes of shells or what is known as "cultch", for young oysters to settle on. Conservancy scientists are collecting recycled shell from oyster bars and shellfish processors and conducting field research to build an artificial reef in a Rhode Island estuary, building habitat for oysters and encouraging a resurgent wild population.
Hemenway’s in Providence
The Newport Restaurant Group in Providence and Newport
NOAA Restoration Center
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
Rhode Island Coastal Resource Management Council
The University of Rhode Island
The Salt Ponds Coalition
Oyster and shellfish restoration is happening all over the country. In order to keep up to date on the latest scientific and technological developments in this work, The Nature Conservancy organized a Shellfish Restoration Network to connect practitioners across the country, enabling them to share stories and develop best practices for restoration. Learn more about our Network, and the places members work, by downloading (Marine Initiative)Shellfish Conservation & Restoration.