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Marine Extension Bulletins

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Shellfish, Nitrogen and the Health of Our Coastal Waters

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» Shellfish, Nitrogen and the Health of Our Coastal Waters

This new marine extension bulletin serves to summarize the often confusing potential for shellfish to be used as part of a plan to mitigate the effects of excess nutrients in coastal waters.

The Cape Cod area in particular is grappling with the potentially enormous costs of reducing the nutrient load to coastal waters and all options are up for discussion. 

Shellfish are natural inhabitants of coastal waters and through their normal feeding activity are involved in cycling and incorporating nutrients through their food. 

This bulletin discusses the potential, and also the challenges to using shellfish production as part of a nutrient reduction plan.

A Comparison of Bottom and Floating Gear for Growing American Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) in Southeastern Massachusetts

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» Oyster_Grow_FINAL_185504.pdf

The oyster aquaculture industry in southeastern Massachusetts primarily grows product using “bottom gear” which includes cages, hanging baskets, rack & bags, and stacking trays made of wire or plastic affixed to the bottom or just above.

Bottom gear can be purchased or fabricated in many different sizes and configurations,is relatively easy to access by foot or vehicle and work with at low tide, and conforms to local regulations regarding gear height. Intertidal shellfish grant locations are not always available, so in recent years several versions of floating gear have been developed to utilize sub-tidal locations. Potential benefits of growing oysters higher in the water column are greater access to plankton, greater distance from benthic predators, warmer water temperatures, and ease of access in deep water growing areas.

In addition, surface gear can be periodically overturned, exposing oysters and gear to help reduce fouling. Some floating gear types can also be submerged to the bottom in anticipation of storm events or winter ice. For these reasons oyster growers in the region became interested in this type of gear, and a comparison of bottom and floating gear was initiated through the Research Farm Network (RFN).

This bulletin addresses the results of that study and several research questions posed during it.

Last updated: January 14, 2015

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