The eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) in New Hampshire’s Great Bay Estuary has declined in the past decades, with local populations reduced due primarily to disease, excessive siltation, and past over-harvest. The loss of filtering oysters results in diminished ecological benefits for water quality, nitrogen control, and other services that healthy oyster populations provide. In support of management objectives to restore oyster populations, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the University of New Hampshire (UNH) have combined for a fourth consecutive year of scaled-up methods to rebuild reefs and oyster populations. Since 2009, we have “planted” dried shell, primarily surf-clam and oyster mix, on channel bottom as a hard substrate foundation to recruit spawn from nearby native populations. Constructed areas are amended with laboratory raised and volunteer-grown “spat-on-shell” from remotely set larvae to supplement recruitment. In 2012, despite limited funding, we successfully constructed and seeded two new acres of reef adjacent to native oysters in the mouth of Squamscott River, Newmarket. Results were somewhat below target for shell cover and live oyster density but natural recruitment was strong and encouraging for future reef development. Overall, we restored about a quarter of a million new oysters to the estuary. Community engagement, particularly through the volunteer Oyster Conservationist program, reached an all-time high with thirty-nine families participating in direct restoration activities and another twenty-three volunteers assisting in various project tasks.
Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, Durham, NH
Konisky, Ray; Grizzle, Raymond E.; Ward, Krystin M.; and McKeton, Kara, "Restoring Oyster Reefs in Great Bay Estuary, NH 2012 Annual Program Report" (2012). PREP Publications. 42.