Oyster reef restoration grows oyster populations and improves water quality

Image courtesy of Anamarija Franki and Amy Costa

Six million oysters might sound like a lot, but this amount which is currently being landed in Wellfleet is 90% less than what Wellfleet once landed. This decrease is linked to overfishing and habitat degradation. In an effort to increase oyster populations and related benefits, Wellfleet’s Comprehensive Wastewater Committee Shellfish Department and Department of Public Works teamed up with UMass Boston’s Green Harbors Project from 2010 to 2015 on oyster restoration. The project team distributed 300 tons of ‘cultch’ – a combination of surf clam and oyster shell – in a 2-acre pilot project area, and over 3,000 tons of the material along the harbor. Oyster populations have grown from a few thousand to several million in the pilot area and water quality has improved from ‘severely degraded’ to “excellent’ by EPA standards. In broader Wellfleet Harbor, approximately 35 acres of oyster habitat has been restored, increasing the oyster population to an estimated 200 million.

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