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North Shore Oyster Restoration

Funding for this project was provided by MassBays to the Massachusetts Oyster Project (2018)

About this project

In 2017, the Massachusetts Oyster Project (MOP) built an oyster upweller pilot project on Maritime Gloucester's main pier in downtown Gloucester and successfully raised 60,000 oyster spat. This exciting educational program served to measure the oysters' impact on local water pollution. That year, over 5,000 students and 20,000 guests interacted with this program.

In 2018, with funding from MassBays, MOP was able to move forward and strengthen the Gloucester program and replicate the project in Marblehead. This project advances MassBays’ mission to inform state regulators by demonstrating the social and environmental benefits of oysters, including the opportunity to restore oysters to their coastal communities.

Currently, MOP runs two additional upweller projects in Gloucester, as well as upweller systems in Marblehead and Hyannis. At each site, MOP is building opportunities to work with partners, including volunteers. In Gloucester, MOP continues to work with Maritime Gloucester to develop educational curriculum and material for visitors and student groups. In Marblehead, MOP works with the Marblehead Charter School's Shark Club, a group of students interested in marine science. The students help with the maintenance and operation of the upweller. In Hyannis, MOP is coordinating with  the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, a group focused on improving Barnstable's water quality. In the beginning of the summer, each upweller receives approximately 60,000 oyster spat. They begin as the size of red pepper flakes, and will grow to about an inch by fall. At that point, the oysters will be released. Since 2017, MOP has released over 200,000 native oysters. Another 200,000 were released in November on the North Shore.

Current state regulations prohibit the release of oysters in restricted waters. Prior to release, MOP works closely with the Division of Marine Fisheries and the town's shellfish warden or constable to select appropriate release sites.In the summer of 2018, MOP conducted a habitat suitability study on the North Shore, and identified locations suited for oyster propagation. Since oysters do best on hard substrates, such as rocks or pebbles, rather than sandy or muddy habitats, they do not compete with clams for habitat. This is important on the North Shore, where the clam harvest is an important industry. 

To learn more about the Massachusetts Oyster Project, visit their website at massoyster.org

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Managing oysters at upweller. Photo: Massachusetts Oyster Project.

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