The Block Island Times

Building an oyster reef

Jul 11, 2013
Photo by: Chris Warfel Reef restoration oysters are placed in the Great Salt Pond by, from left, Jen Lighty, Emma Ganley, and Kate McConville.

Sun Farm Oysters is now in its third season of building an oyster reef in the Great Salt Pond. The concept is to improve water quality using the oyster’s natural ability to pump and filter water. One mature oyster can pump 50 gallons of seawater a day. This turns out to be a much more cost-effective method than using electric pumps and filters.

First, oyster and clam shells are placed in a spawning tank at Aquacultural Research Corporation in Dennis, Mass., where larval oysters attach themselves to the shell. These oysters are no bigger than a grain of sand. The shell with the oysters attached are then trucked to Block Island and placed into Sun Farm Oysters leased area. Sun Farm Oysters grows them through December, when they are transferred to the reef. Over the years, the oysters have grown together, creating a near-monolithic structure. The reef is a protected spawner sanctuary; harvesting from the reef is illegal.

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