Oyster Reef Restoration

July 1, 2015

In a collaborative conservation project, the Massachusetts towns of Fairhaven and Wareham, Buzzards Bay Coalition, the Nature Conservancy and some volunteers recently joined hands to build the first oyster reef at Little Bay in Fairhaven waters. Eco News Network along with contributor Captain Dave Bill, Director of Nautical Science at Tabor Academy participated in the effort. Here’s what Captain Bill had to say about this effort and oyster reef restoration and construction.Nature Conservancy, Fairhaven, MA oyster reef restoration project


IMG_4252Our native oyster Crassostrea virginica is a great multitasker organism. Oysters are part of a valuable shellfishery and play a vital role in the health of an estuary ecosystem. Oyster larvae settle on cultch and attach themselves.

As oysters grow, they form reefs that provide habitat for other species. Oysters filter nutrients, fine sediments and toxins from the water. The oyster’s ability to remove nitrogen is well known too. Nitrogen is one of a number of nutrients that fuels IMG_3730algae blooms that lead to reduced water clarity and low dissolved oxygen.

Many efforts to restore health to estuaries like Buzzard’s Bay focus on reducing the amount of these nutrients, especially nitrogen, that enter the water.

In this effort in Fairhaven with the Nature Conservancy and Buzzards Bay Coalition, crushed surf clam shell cultch was loaded onto a flat bed trailer into fish totes and then onto a work barge. The barge was then towed to the reef site whose perimeter was outlined by buoys. The cultch in the fish totes was dumped in an orderly fashion to create rows of shell which established bottom habitat (reefs) for oyster colonization.Nature Conservancy Fairhaven, MA oyster restoration projectIn a similar mission, at Tabor Academy a smaller scale oyster reef project is underway. For our school community service project my advisees and I filled IMG_466010 mesh bags with shell cultch and attached them to the base of dock pilings. We anticipate that the oysters in the area will produce a natural set of oyster spat setting on the cultch. In September the cultch in the bags will be spread over two 5’ X 5’ footprints of concrete tiles. Our hope is to establish oyster reefs that will improve the local marine ecosystem and support the Town of Marion shellfish propagation efforts.  In addition, the oyster reefs will provide “aquatic classrooms” for our Marine Science students and complement the research that is being done in our Marine and Nautical Science Center.Tabor students sorting farmed oysters

This oyster restoration project is one of many that The Nature Conservancy, Buzzard’s Bay Coalition and other organizations such as Billion Oyster Project in New York Harbor are undertaking to help restore the natural ecology of coastal waters in general and as one remediation technique after a man-made ecological catastrophe such as the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

-Captain David Bill

ANchoring 182Captain Bill is the Director of Nautical Science at Tabor Academy, a lifelong sailor, and a lover of the sea. In addition to teaching and coaching sailing at Tabor, Captain Dave makes  Island Time Pets custom nautical rope dog leashes and dog toys.


Photo credits: Captain David Bill



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