and sea clam shells, whose higher calcium carbonate levels make them even more attractive for spat.
Each fall, the Wellfleet Oyster Fest (October 15–16
this year) donates its recycled shells — more than 5
tons in 2014 — to the cause. Overall, the restoration
has utilized more than 3,000 tons of recycled shells
garnered largely from individuals and restaurants (one
of the first to work with MOP was Barbara Lynch’s
B&G Oysters in Boston). They have also had shells
donated by producers who typically grind them up
“It’s an example of how green architecture is
more resilient and sustainable than gray architecture
[a more traditional, less sustainable system],” says
Curt Felix, a biologist and board member of MOP as
well as of the Cape Cod Water Protection Collaborative and the Comprehensive Wastewater Management
Planning Committee in Wellfleet, the most successful
location where MOP has been involved. (Boston and
Wareham are others.)
How quickly Wellfleet water quality improved
was “really, really surprising,” says Felix. Now, there
are roughly 3 million oysters in the non commercial
restoration area (in the harbor, the estimate is in the
hundreds of millions). Thousands of pounds of nitrogen are filtered out of the water each year, and the
annual value of the commercial oyster business has
increased by $1 million. For the advancements made
by the oyster restoration and propagation project (led
by Environmental Partners Group of Quincy, Massachusetts, and supported locally by MOP, the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Green Harbors Project, and the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts), the town has won a Municipal
Innovation Award from MassRecycle, an American
Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts
Excellence Award for water quality, and an American
Public Works Association Project of the Year award.
But back on land, volunteers aren’t resting.
“There’s incredible public support for this initiative,” says Andrew Jay, MOP’s director. However,
fishery laws can be restrictive, so the team is working
to improve legislation around oyster restoration and
advance government support for the natural systems.
And the oysters are leading the way.
Massachusetts Oyster Project; massoyster.org.
at low tide, the spawning study area (left, top) reveals
2 acres of oyster and sea clam shells. Curt Felix (left,
bottom) stands in an oyster reef next to the Wellfleet