Over the next year, a million tiny pioneers will arrive at Sengekontacket Pond [on Martha’s Vineyard]. Simply by growing from the size of a pencil eraser to a full 3”, a million oysters are the key part of a project launched by Oak Bluffs and Edgartown to cultivate the shellfish in Sengekontacket, which has been found to have nitrogen levels well above acceptable limits.

The oyster project, if it is successful, could be a win-win for those who love the pond and those who love to eat shellfish: the oysters, which naturally filter nitrogen out of the water, will clean the pond. When fully grown, the oysters will be planted in the pond to be harvested and eaten.

A draft report states that failure to reduce the nitrogen level could result in the loss of eelgrass, a higher frequency of undesirable decreases in dissolved oxygen concentrations, fish kills, “widespread occurrence of unpleasant odors and visible scum,” and even a complete loss of macroinvertebrates that live on the pond floor. Oysters feed off algae and take nitrogen with them when they are removed from the water. About 10,000 active, grazing oysters will remove the nitrogen output from a single household.

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