The Block Island Times

Oyster reef building in the GSP

Nov 15, 2013
Photo by: Jodi Murdock

Sun Farm Oysters, under the guidance of the Rhode Island USDA/Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), transferred just under two tons of first-year oysters on shell (cultch) to the oyster reef habitat sanctuary in the Great Salt Pond on Nov. 5. Jodi Murdock, Jen Lighty, Kate McConville and Chris Warfel, of Sun Farm Oysters, and Stewart Taffe and John Richard of NRCS, completed the transfer.

This is the fourth and final year of building the reef. Over time, the reef will hopefully grow into a monolithic structure that will spawn oysters throughout the GSP. A survey of the site shows promising progress with baby oysters being born on the reef (known as recruitment).

No shellfishing can take place on the sanctuary, but oysters that grow outside the sanctuary may be harvested according to state and New Shoreham regulations. This project is part of a national effort to improve water quality by removing nitrogen and phosphorus from local waters.

Oysters are tremendous filter feeders, with an adult oyster filtering over 40 gallons of seawater a day. Sun Farm estimates that aquaculture in the Great Salt Pond filters approximately six billion gallons of water annually.

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