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Oysters shell return

US - Brisk December weather did not deter a slew of volunteers, researchers and professors from completing the second phase of a statewide oyster gardening program on Saturday.

A volunteer holds a cluster of the juvenile oysters that were planted on Saturday. (Ashley Wilkerson/Daily News staff photos)

They prepared and transferred more than a million shellfish to reefs on Prudence Island and in Bristol Harbor.

“Our efforts are trying to establish oyster populations in areas where they were once historically prevalent,” said Timothy M. Scott, director of the Center for Economic and Environmental Development at Roger Williams University, which participates in the Rhode Island Aquaculture Initiative, along with the state Coastal Resources Management Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sea Grant Rhode Island and the University of Rhode Island.

Narragansett Bay has not had a healthy population of oysters for 20 years, according to Scott. The decimation can be attributed to a series of parasites that literally have wiped out the oysters.

To help combat the declining oyster population, the Rhode Island Oyster Gardening for Restoration and Enhancement project, or RI-OGRE, was formed in 2006. The program asks coastal landowners for help in raising oysters in Narragansett Bay, as well as in coastal ponds, until they are large enough to move to permanent sites such as Jenny’s Creek, also known as the late Luther H. Blount’s pond on Prudence Island, and in Bristol Harbor.

The work starts in the hatchery at Roger Williams University in Bristol, where oysters are spawned in shallow, heated tubs. After two to three weeks, larvae begin to attach and grow on empty clamshells. Once they reach this stage, the oysters are moved into floating nets at various RI-OGRE sites.

Source: Newport Daily News