Inaugural Massachusetts Oyster Project Season a Success

WELLFLEET – The Massachusetts Oyster Project recently reported that the first season of their shell recycling program in Wellfleet was a success, recycling over 25,000 pounds of oyster shells during the summer months.

The Massachusetts Oyster Project is an all-volunteer non-profit working to strengthen the coastal environment of Massachusetts by restoring native shellfish populations in beaches and coastal estuaries.

Through oyster cultivation and shell recycling, the organization is hoping to improve water quality, increase marine biodiversity, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

“Oyster reefs used to be the bedrock of the Eastern seaboard,” said Joshua Gee, Board Member of the Massachusetts Oyster Project.

“There used to be millions, if not billions of oysters along the coast in reefs that would get twenty, thirty feet high, and those work just like coral reefs in the southern hemisphere. It would be a source for sea life, it would prevent storm surge during bad hurricanes from swamping the mainland and driving coastal erosion.”

“Over time those oysters were eaten and mined out for shipping,” he said, “and it really devastated one of the bedrock animals of the coast. We’re working to try and bring it back.”

Gee said the best place for baby oysters, called spat, to grow on is other oysters. As the baby oysters drift in their microscopic early stages, the chemical makeup of an oyster shell is the ideal environment to latch onto.

The organization partnered with eight Wellfleet restaurants, diverting oyster shells from the trash into special containers.

Massachusetts Oyster Project staff and volunteers collected the shells and brought to a special oyster shell collection site managed by the Town of Wellfleet’s Shellfish Department and Transfer station.

The shells will age for a year, allowing the wind and weather to naturally clean them before being spread out and dumped in various restoration sites.

Despite a promising inaugural season, the focus of the project is on the long-term goal.

“We think this is a decades long project,” said Gee.

“It took us hundreds of years to destroy the habitat, its going to take us a while to build it back up. That being said, its also something that builds upon itself. We’ve seen some areas where oyster reefs are naturally starting to grow.”

The Massachusetts Oyster Project aims to someday have shellfish recycling programs all around the state, some of which might be used to aid in farming, while others go to wild restoration sites.

“This program couldn’t have gotten off the ground without the support of the community of Wellfleet,” said Gee.

“The restauranteurs who were excited about it, volunteers who helped out, the Wellfleet town Shellfish Constable Nancy was tremendous.”

“Everyone was so supportive,” he said, “it really was special.”

The organization is looking for individuals interested in getting involved in shell recycling efforts, including volunteers and part time workers for the next summer, and restaurants willing to participate.

For more information, click here

By, Matthew Tomlinson, NewsCenter

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