Cliches are annoying as a result of they’re apparent and overused, however normally, they’re overused as a result of they’re correct.

So I’m going to disregard my inside writing snob and inform you that as we speak’s column considerations a win-win – actually, a win-win-win! – for the atmosphere, for science and for a younger farming trade that was hit by the pandemic.

It considerations oysters.

At one time the Nice Bay, the big tidal basin that erupts out of the Piscataqua River and fills some 6,000 acres between Portsmouth and Newmarket with a mixture of salt and recent water, held lots of of tens of millions of jap oysters in as many as 1,000 acres of oyster beds. Then people, as is our behavior, wiped them out.

The story I hear is that we harvested all of them  and bought them to  New York Metropolis after these of us decimated their very own oyster beds, however which may simply be a bivalve model of the Yankees-Crimson Sox rivalry.

Regardless of the trigger, the loss was dangerous. Oysters feed by filtering materials out of the water, and they’re a good way to maintain each salt water and recent water clear. The lack of oysters has been one of many elements contributing to the Nice Bay’s air pollution issues, so individuals wish to restore them.

Not like many environmental advantages, oysters have market worth as a result of some individuals prefer to eat them (they’re not my favourite), offering an additional restoration incentive. With that in thoughts, for the previous decade or so UNH and numerous environmental companions have been serving to unbiased farmers set up small oyster beds right here and there, promoting the product to uncooked bars and different eateries.

It’s a gradual course of since you’ve acquired to search out the fitting place for an oyster, set up the fitting atmosphere for oysters to develop and naturally reproduce, and be affected person. The trouble continues to be small – roughly 18 acres of reef have been re-established – however is rising, with two or three dozen operations receiving licenses to determine an oyster mattress in numerous areas. Complete gross sales have been within the half-million-dollar vary, in response to estimates.

Then the pandemic hit. Eating places shut down and like many farmers, these growers have been caught with an unsellable product. Catastrophe loomed.

Enter New Hampshire Sea Grant.

N.H. Sea Grant is a part of a nationwide program; Maine has one and Massachusetts a pair, every related to a college or analysis institute. They supply cash for analysis into aquaculture and different ocean-related areas. Steve Jones, UNH analysis affiliate professor and affiliate director of N.H. Sea Grant, defined what occurred subsequent.

“The nationwide finances included a number of million {dollars} for pure competitors for aquaculture analysis. As a substitute, it was determined to take it and distribute it to every Sea Grant program affected by COVID. In New Hampshire, the oyster growers have been the plain alternative – acquired about $100,000,” he stated.

As a substitute of simply handing cash to the farmers, nevertheless, Sea Grant is shopping for a few of their extra oysters, normally ones which have gotten too outdated to promote to the few markets that stay, and getting the farmers to assist them do analysis.

“We now have established experimental restoration reefs on areas that farmers have licensed, to see how effectively these massive oyster websites recruit, or get little oysters to choose them and begin rising,” Jones stated.

Oysters reproduce by spewing larvae out into the open water, the place they float and swim round till they settle someplace and fasten themselves. (Grownup oysters usually keep in a single place but when scraped off they will re-attach elsewhere and proceed rising.)

Oyster larvae are unlikely to develop, nevertheless, except they choose a tough place, like a rock or concrete. They do finest in the event that they choose a shell of an oyster or different bivalve, for causes that aren’t solely clear. As I’ve famous up to now, restoration efforts embrace initiatives to gather shells from eating places and dump them into the Nice Bay in hopes that younger oysters will discover them.

The present challenge is attempting to jump-start that course of with science, creating a big experiment to see which variables matter and in what circumstances with farmers dumping these purchases overboard in fastidiously chosen areas after which raking them out throughout low tide to create new oyster beds that will probably be monitored.

“We now have 8 – really, now it’s 9 – farmers concerned. Every of them have completely different areas that they’re licensed to develop in, which have barely completely different situations, variations in present velocity, and salinity, and depth, issues like that. So we’re going to have the ability to be taught quite a bit about pure oyster inhabitants restoration,” Jones stated. “All of the farmers have transplanted oysters and are gathering details about them – the scale, the vary, proof of progress. Subsequent spring we’ll do one other evaluation, pattern and measure. On the finish of subsequent summer season, after they reproduce, we’ll be capable to get an actual sense of how effectively the restoration works.”

By then, with a bit of luck, the financial ecosystem of coastal eating places will probably be recovering and the Sea Grant assist received’t be wanted.

In brief, this challenge helps New Hampshire oyster farmers financially (one win), serving to enhance the inhabitants of oysters filtering Nice Bay water (one other win) and offering information that may assist deliver again much more oysters (win quantity three).

That’s a cliche I can stay with.

Get your geek on

If you would like extra geek in your week, subscribe to David Brooks’ free weekly publication at GraniteGeek.org. You can too hearken to his weekly chat with Chris Ryan on WKXL radio at soundcloud.com/wkxl.

(David Brooks may be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)





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