Who are you?

The Massachusetts Oyster Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to the restoration of water cleansing oysters and native shellfish to the state’s marine estuaries.

What do you do?

We engage in 4 primary activities.

  1. Restoration - Where and when we can, we work to restore native shellfish populations. In partnership with local organizations, we started and maintain oyster upwellers in three locations: Gloucester, Marblehead, and Hyannis. These upwellers grow out native oysters for local restoration efforts. We also support other programs, such as Wellfleet's oyster propagation zones.

  2. Shell Recycling- We’ve worked with local restaurants and events to gather and recycle oyster shell. In time, we aspire to process the shell and use it at our restoration sites.

  3. Education - We love speaking to school groups, Scout Troops, and other environmental organizations. We’ve also developed effective, fact-based curriculum for educators in Massachusetts. Education is vital to expose more people to the water resources of Massachusetts, and to build energy and momentum for the restoration of native shellfish to our coastlines.

  4. Advocacy - The Commonwealth's cumbersome and antiquated laws are holding back restoration, we are working to change them.

Why Now?

The cities and towns of Massachusetts are rediscovering their coastlines. After years of pollution, water clarity has improved dramatically. But there is still a lot of work to do. Across the Commonwealth, there still is waste entering the harbor through street runoff and Combined Sewer Outflows (CSOs). When there is heavy rain, the water volume exceeds the capacity of pipes to treatment facilities. Thus domestic sewage and storm water may be diverted to the CSOs and into the harbor. Downstream, this can lead to beach closings in addition to lower water quality. The flow in the Charles River is about 300 million gallons per day. Ten small 225 square foot oyster beds could cleanse this volume on a daily basis.

Beyond that, hurricane Sandy showed the destructive impact climate change could have on our coast. Oysters can play a huge role in mitigating the effects of climate change on the Commonwealth:

Storm surge - Wild oyster reefs off-shore can play a similar role that coral reefs play in tropical climates. Severe storms bring severe waves, which would break farther out, causing less damage. 

Ocean acidification - As the ocean heats up, it's getting more acidic, which is killing marine life. Oyster shells are natural bicarbonates, and help reduce acidification. 

Erosion - The nooks and crannies of a reef support an incredible amount of sea life. Bringing back reefs will turn a barren desert-like sea-bottom into a lush biosphere. That, in turn, reduces coastal erosion.