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Oyster Restoration Boston Massachusetts


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This presentation provides an overview of a grass-roots oyster restoration effort by a non-profit. The Massachusetts Oyster Project For Clean Water entity is seeking to establish reefs of the water cleansing mollusks in the estuaries of Boston Harbor. An oyster can filter 30 gallons of water per day. For more information visit

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Oyster Restoration Boston Massachusetts

  1. 1. The Massachusetts Oyster Project For Clean Water Restoring oysters to their natural range to improve harbor water quality July 18, 2008 A Local Non-Profit Effort to Improve Harbor Water Quality Through The Introduction of Oysters via Surface Disbursal
  2. 2. Our Goal <ul><li>Re-establish protected oyster reef populations on suitable areas on the Charles, Mystic, Neponset, Chelsea Creek, Fort Point Channel and other areas to improve water quality, offset run-off pollution, attract other sea life and help perpetuate the species. </li></ul><ul><li>These oysters will be placed in areas closed to shell fishing and are not intended to be harvested- ever. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Boston Oysters 1881 1634
  4. 4. Oyster Demise <ul><li>Loss of habitat- through fill </li></ul><ul><li>Over-harvesting- feeding humans </li></ul><ul><li>Misuse- oyster shells and sometimes whole oysters were spread on fields to reduce soil acidity </li></ul><ul><li>River subjugation-protective dams convert significant areas of Back Bay and Mystic Rivers to fresh water. </li></ul><ul><li>Pollution- sewage flows, river silt, chemicals </li></ul>
  5. 5. Oyster Benefits <ul><li>Filtering water in rivers and tidal estuaries </li></ul><ul><ul><li>30 gallons per oyster per day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Feeding on phytoplankton, removing silt from water column </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Improves water clarity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Offsetting impact from sewer overflows and other manmade pollutants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Capturing nitrogen, algae and bacteria </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Cleaner water attracts other sea life and people </li></ul>Crassostrea Virginica
  6. 6. Oyster Habitat <ul><li>Oysters prefer to live in beds or reefs </li></ul><ul><li>Located below low tide line and less than 30 feet of water </li></ul><ul><li>They will attach to other oyster shells or other hard surfaces </li></ul><ul><li>They grow in beds upwards and open fractionally to capture and filter water. </li></ul><ul><li>Lower salinity water seems to be preferable as this deters certain pathogens </li></ul><ul><ul><li>MSX </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dermo </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Will survive water temperatures of 28-90 degrees. </li></ul>Oyster reefs are the coral reefs of the North.
  7. 7. What we did… <ul><li>Began pitching people on the idea of restoring oysters to Boston Harbor </li></ul><ul><li>Formed MOP a 501c-3 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Foley Hoag took us on as a pro-bono client. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Met with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Heard their concerns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gave them a proposal </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Identified a source of oysters </li></ul><ul><li>Began raising money--- This was the hardest part. </li></ul><ul><li>Worked with Boston Conservation Commission </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Oysters are good for Biodiversity. Over 200 other species live in a reef. </li></ul><ul><li>Hard substrate </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Place to lay eggs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anchor for aquatic plants </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Vertical structure for shelter </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Small fish </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Grass shrimp </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Food </li></ul><ul><li>Water quality regulation </li></ul>
  9. 9. 2. Oysters can triple the number of Fish! <ul><li>Abstract   Oyster-shell plantings were made on formerly productive bottom to determine the practicability of securing an oyster set in this area and to test the hypothesis that the availability of game fish could be improved by artificially modifying the habitat in Chincoteague Bay, Maryland. Fish populations were trapped over planted and unplanted control areas with the same effort from August to November in 1958 and 1959. Fourteen species of saltwater fish were recorded in the planted and control areas, of which the black sea bass, Centropristes striatus , was the dominant species. </li></ul><ul><li>The planted areas yielded about three times as many fish as the controls during the two years. Black sea bass numbers were much greater on planted areas than on control areas . The planted area also produced more species than the unplanted area. </li></ul><ul><li>More fish were caught over both planted and control bottoms during 1959 than in 1958, due partially to improved trap design. There is some evidence of improvement in the availability of fish over a planted area that has aged for a year. It is concluded that oyster-shell plantings significantly concentrated and increased numbers of fish over restricted areas, when compared to unplanted areas. </li></ul>
  10. 10. 3. Oysters can help improve water quality. <ul><li>Water clarity has improved dramatically and is improving thanks to Boston Water and Sewer & MWRA projects. </li></ul><ul><li>But there still is waste entering the harbor through Combined Sewer Outflows (CSOs) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>When there is a heavy rain, the water volume exceeds the capacity of pipes to treatment facilities. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Thus domestic sewage and storm water may be diverted to the CSOs and into the harbor. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This waste can raise nitrogen levels and contribute to algae blooms. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>There also will be an ongoing problem with contamination from surface run-off. </li></ul><ul><li>Downstream this can lead to beach closings in addition to poor water quality. </li></ul>Treating wastewater can only do so much.
  11. 11. There still is considerable CSO flow entering the harbor. Source: MWRA Recommended CSO Control Plan and Report 2005
  12. 12. Oysters may be able to help reduce Boston beach postings. Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Environmental Health Environmental Toxicology Program Marine and FreshwaterBeach Testing in Massachusetts Annual Report2006 Season
  13. 13. Plan 2008 <ul><li>2008 Phase I Pilot- </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identified site on Charles River </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Obtain approval Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Obtain blessing of Boston Conservation Commission </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Raise $12,000 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dispersal Fall 2008 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>100,000 seed oysters </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>150,000 seed oysters 50,000 more than plan </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>200 hundred adults- place with May check up </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Establish test population </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitor growth </li></ul></ul>DONE
  14. 14. Plan 2008 <ul><li>This location is out of the main current. </li></ul><ul><li>The water is of lower salinity. </li></ul><ul><li>There is a pedestrian walkway that may lend itself to eventual educational markers </li></ul><ul><li>This area is below combined sewer outflows so the oysters cannot be harvested for food. </li></ul><ul><li>There is no easy access for poaching harvesting. </li></ul><ul><li>The bottom is loose gravel and stone. </li></ul>Disperse Oysters Here Direction of Current DONE
  15. 15. Placement Event Media Coverage <ul><li>TV- Channel 4, 5, and 7 </li></ul><ul><li>Radio NPR- WBUR </li></ul><ul><li>Print </li></ul>
  16. 16. Placement Event Media Coverage
  17. 17. MOP Web-site Activity We are now getting 20 hits a day!
  18. 18. Placement Follow up <ul><li>There Alive! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>6 months later 50% survival </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In line with commercial growers survival rates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A bit more silt than we would like </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Harbor surprisingly vital </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mussels, crabs, lobsters and starfish </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fish </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Proposed Plan 2009 <ul><li>Monitor success or failure of Charles pilot </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Let them grow </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Track reproduction </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Establish a second population </li></ul>
  20. 20. Phase II <ul><li>After proving out pilot success seek broad dissemination </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fort Point Channel 2010 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mystic estuary- Amelia Earhart dam 2011 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Boston Harbor Islands 2011 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Thompson and Snake Islands </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>UMass Boston 2010 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Learn more </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reproduction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Raising oysters to reduce cost </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Key Learnings <ul><li>Dive the site </li></ul><ul><li>Measure everything salinity, temperature </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure the bottom is hard- avoid loose silt and muck. </li></ul><ul><li>Use caged populations for monitoring tie them off well. </li></ul><ul><li>The idea is popular. </li></ul><ul><li>Involving an academic angle can help land grants. </li></ul><ul><li>These programs take time. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Open Questions <ul><li>Will the oysters reproduce? 2009 2010 </li></ul><ul><li>Do we have critical mass of oysters? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Is 75,000 enough? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Where should we make our next placement? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In the same area to aid reproduction? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In another area to provide a second site for learning? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If oysters have not been present for so long, will there be pathogens and predators such as MSX, dermo and oyster drills? </li></ul><ul><li>How many oysters will we need to begin to make a measurable impact on the overall harbor? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we raise the money? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To donate please visit </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Questions Every day we are filtering 2.2 million gallons of harbor water!