PREP Reports & Publications


Six major oyster beds (reefs) in New Hampshire are mapped periodically to assess wild oyster populations in the Great Bay Estuary. Data on the spatial extent of the beds are combined with density and other measures to estimate the abundances of live oysters. The first objective of the present project was to determine the spatial extent of these six oyster beds, and to compare the 2012/2013 data with previous mapping efforts. A second objective was twofold: to map the extent of live oyster bottom at selected recent oyster restoration sites, and to map areas where oyster beds have been known to occur historically but not recently. Towed underwater video methods, as used in previous oyster mapping efforts in New Hampshire, were used for this project. All recorded video was classified into three categories: ”reef” (>20% shell cover and live oysters visible); ”sparse shell” (

Two of the natural beds (Nannie Island [2012: 32.4 ac] and Oyster River [2012: 1.6 ac]) had similar total bottom area coverage compared to most previous mapping efforts. Three beds (Adams Point [2012: 15.9 ac], Squamscott River [2012: 7.7 ac] and Woodman Point [2012: 15.4 ac]) had substantially greater area coverage compared to previous surveys. In all three cases, however, the increases were likely due to additional adjacent areas being surveyed. In contrast to the others, the Piscataqua River bed appears to have substantially decreased in bottom area coverage (2012: 7.0 ac) compared to previous surveys.

Selected oyster restoration sites were also video surveyed in 2013 to determine bottom area coverage that could be considered “reef” and therefore considered as part of the overall oyster resource in New Hampshire. Restoration sites in the Lamprey River, Oyster River (3 sites), and at Fox Point in Little Bay were imaged. Due to poor image quality, full bottom area coverage could not be determined for any of the sites. Nonetheless, substantial areas of at least “sparse shell” bottom, and live oysters in some areas were recorded at all sites. These restoration sites as well as additional sites are scheduled for video surveying and quantitative sampling in 2013.

The third focus of the project was to survey areas where oyster beds historically occurred. Of the four general areas surveyed, live oyster reefs were found in two areas: Lamprey River (0.9 ac) and mid-Great Bay (35.2 ac). In sum, these two areas represent a major addition to the known live oyster bottom in the state. Moreover, these findings strongly suggest that live oyster reefs may be in other areas where oysters have not been known to exist in recent years.

Overall, this project has added substantially to our knowledge of where live oysters occur in New Hampshire as well as the total bottom area coverage. A total of 120 acres of bottom area classified as “reef” was mapped. Additionally, the extent (perhaps 100 ac or more) of bottom area that had sparse shell but apparently few or no live oysters in mid-Great Bay bed and in the Nannie Island/Woodman Point area is important because these areas represent excellent oyster restoration opportunities. However, they will need to be mapped in more detail to sufficiently design future projects.


Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership

Publication Date



Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership

Document Type