Why is growing oysters important?

  • Oysters provide a variety of services that contribute to the overall quality of the health of any estuary.
  • Oysters feed by filtering water to remove phytoplankton and other particles floating in the water. This action helps to maintain water clarity and quality and to cycle nitrogen and phosphorus, two nutrients that can be harmful to our bays. Increased filtration by healthy oyster populations can also prevent harmful algal blooms. These blooms can affect the health of the water and wildlife living in and around it.
  • Oyster gardens create habitats that attract small bottom-dwelling organisms like grass shrimp and worms that in turn support populations of crabs, fish and other important species.

Aquaculture Studies

Please click on the links below to read current studies on aquaculture and how it can be used as a tool to remove nitrogen from our embayment:

  1. Comparative Analysis of Modeled Nitrogen Removal by Shellfish Farms
  2. Denitrification & Nutrient Assimilation on a Restored Oyster Reef 2013
  3. Nitrogen Bulletin 2014 Shellfish Nitrogen Removal

What is Three Bays Preservation doing?

In 2008, Three Bays Preservation decided to conduct an experiment with Tom Marcotti of the Barnstable Shellfish Department. We purchased 60,000 oyster seeds and placed them along the banks of the Marstons Mills River just outside of Warren’s Cove. The experiment was to determine if the shellfish would be any help in ridding the water of excess nutrients. The oysters absolutely thrived in their new environment. The oysters grew so well that they were able to be planted after only one season of growth.

Again in 2009, with money we received from a grant from the Horizon Foundation, Three Bays Preservation and the Town of Barnstable decided to grow more oysters in the Prince’s Cove area of the Three Bays. On a cold, rainy and very windy June day, we traveled to Dennis to the Aquacultural Research Corp. to pick up 350,000 oyster seeds. With the help of BARS (Barnstable Association of Recreational Shellfishing), the seed was placed into oyster bags and set out in racks along the section of the Marstons Mills River that connects Prince’s Cove and North Bay. We have already begun planting last season’s oysters, and as the seasons progress, we will be free-planting more.