Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) Production
Many of our oyster projects are intended to help establish a healthy, self-sustaining and commercially viable population of oysters to Narragansett Bay. These long-term restoration efforts are expected to benefit commercial and recreational fishermen; provide critical benthic habitat for fish and other important species, and through their capacity as biological filters, provide a valuable ecological function to Narragansett Bay.
These projects include the use of the Blount Oyster Pond and Jennyís Creek Spawning Sanctuary on Prudence Island, and a growing list of other protected oyster reef sites in Narragansett Bay, the Coastal Ponds and Block Island. For several years now, oyster reefs have been established and restocked annually in formerly productive areas. These sites use putatively disease-resistant oyster seed produced in our hatchery, and have been funded and supported through a variety of agencies including: Rhode Island Aquaculture Initiative (http://www.crmc.state.ri.us/riai/), Ocean Trust Foundation (www.oceantrust.org), National Fisheries Institute (www.aboutseafood.com), the Island Foundation, Blount Seafood Company and the Narragansett Bay Shellfish Restoration Foundation.
The Blount Oyster Nursery Pond on Prudence Island:
The history of the Blount Family of Warren, Rhode Island mirrors the history of shellfish cultivation and harvest in Rhode Island. The family has been in the marine trades, seafood and oyster harvesting business for generations. In the 1970ís, Luther Blount (1916-2006) decided to try his hand at oyster cultivation using an innovative salt marsh pond that he created at the Jennyís Creek Salt Marsh on Prudence Island. By controlling the direction of water flow in the tidal pond, Mr. Blount could cycle the nourishment for his young oysters. Started with the idea of commercially producing oysters, over time, the project turned into an oyster restoration effort supplying oyster larvae to the upper part of Narragansett Bay. In 2002, we began working with Mr. Blount to help maintain the oyster nursery pond, and later to introduce disease resistant strains of local oysters into the pond. By serving as a protected spawning sanctuary, these oysters can grow and reproduce, sending millions of larvae out into the bay. Mr. Blount generously established the Narragansett Bay Shellfish Restoration Foundation to see that this work continues into the future.
Each year, CEED produces ~50,000 oyster seed that are placed into the Blount oyster pond, and these are being maintained on a five year rotational basis. In addition to this effort, we have planted over one million young oysters directly into Jennyís Creek over the past several years. The pond and the entire creek was designated a special shellfish management zone by the RI Department of Environmental Management, and is intended to serve as a spawning sanctuary well into the future.
Click here for the Oyster Gardening for Restoration & Enhancement (OGRE) program
In 2006, we established the first reef ball project in Rhode Island. This emerging technology is being used to establish oyster reefs while the three dimensional structure provides habitat for juvenile fish. The project was funded by a small grant through the Nature Conservancy to David Taylor, and the work is being done collaboratively with the CEED hatchery.
Oyster Disease Resistance:
This is a long-term project led by Dale Leavitt to develop and deploy a local strain of oysters resistant to common diseases.
Oyster aquaculture is the largest segment of the RI aquaculture industry, with ~30 farmers generating 97% of total production and a farm-gate value of $1,500,000. The growth in the aquaculture sector is a prime example of the exciting rebirth of RIís agriculture, with farmers adding value to small farms through innovative marketing, diversification of products, and the development of brand names associated with quality product.
The highest risk for both wild harvest oysters and oyster farming is disease. Parasitic diseases such as Dermo and MSX have devastated the American oyster industry in the US, resulting in millions of dollars of losses. To counter the impact of disease, strains of oysters resistant to Dermo, MSX, and Juvenile Oyster Disease have been developed through selective breeding. Few of these strains have a Northeast origin and none have been tested in local growing conditions. Thanks to funding through the RI Aquaculture Initiative, we have been testing the performance of two disease resistant oyster strains (NEH and FMF), and a local RI strain (GHP) at local aquaculture farms.
With funding from the USDA, the second phase of this project has been to develop a line of oysters with disease resistance as well as adapted to local growing conditions by performing crosses of local oysters with disease resistant strains. Information on the performance of these stains will be extremely valuable to farmers so they can make informed decisions regarding strain choice.
Provide Seed to Local Researchers & Commercial Growers:
We have given and sold a limited amount of seed over the past two years to meet local needs, and we expect these opportunities to expand once the hatchery is moved to the MNS Annex. Future projects include new aquaculture species development and expanded aquaculture training opportunities.
Center for Economic & Environmental Development, Roger Williams University, One Old Ferry Rd, Bristol, RI 02809
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