Developing a Combined Oyster Shell Recycling and "Oyster Conservationist" Program in New Hampshire

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Project Type: 
Inception Date: 
Completion Date: 
Theme Area: 
Fisheries Resources
Sustainable Aquaculture


Raymond Grizzle UNH - Jackson Estuarine Lab Principal Investigator
Jennifer Greene UNH - Department of Biological Sciences Associate Investigator

Statement of the Problem and Justification

Populations of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) have been in long-term decline throughout much of its range, including New Hampshire. Hence, oysters are a major concern of coastal managers in many areas. Our laboratory currently has five ongoing oyster restoration projects that collectively are collaborative efforts with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, New Hampshire Estuaries Project, the Nature Conservancy and the City of Dover.

A major obstacle that has been identified for future work on these projects, and others that are in the planning stages, is a shortage of oyster shell used for remote setting of hatchery-reared larvae. The present proposal is aimed at implementing a native shell recycling program that will provide oyster shell to be used in ongoing and planned restoration projects.

The need to develop a plan to return shells from oysters harvested in NH to state waters is addressed in the NH Estuaries Project Management Plan 2000, under Action SHL-8, p. 6-25. There has long been a need to return harvested oyster shells to the areas from where they were taken. Shortages of shell have been an issue in other states as well. Some states (e.g., Maryland) have passed legislation that prohibits out-of-state transport of oyster shell. Others (e.g., South Carolina) have implemented successful recycling programs to conserve this valuable resource.

We already have taken several preliminary steps to help insure success of the proposed program. Last year, letters were sent to most of the shellfish license holders in NH asking their views on a shell recycling program. Twenty three responses--all positive--were received. We also have met with personnel from the relevant state agencies and all are supportive. These meetings allowed us to identify potential concerns of the regulatory agencies, and all will be addressed as the program is implemented. Finally, we have gathered information on shell recycling programs in other states and designed our program, in part, based on what is working in these areas.

A successful shell recycling program in NH would have several important benefits. The most immediate and direct benefit would be providing shells for ongoing oyster restoration projects. The program also would be a major first step in conserving a valuable natural resource and insuring that the shells are eventually returned to state waters. It would allow the harvesters themselves to become part of the State's oyster restoration program. In other areas (e.g., South Carolina), shell recycling programs have proven to be extremely popular and effective.

The present proposal is only for funds to purchase a trailer and supplies for constructing a bin. The trailer will be used to collect and transport the recycled shell. We are seeking funds elsewhere to accomplish the "Future Objectives" listed below.

Project Objective

1) Obtain a trailer and construct bin to be used for collection and transport of shell

Future Objectives

1) Determine appropriate locations for shell return, storage, and final processing

2) Invite NH oyster harvesters to participate in the program

3) Initiate the program (install trailer, prepare holding facilities and processing area)

4) Develop a plan for long-term funding of the program