Oyster Reefs Installed in Quonochontaug Pond, RI

Quonochontaug Pond | Photo by Juliancolton, via Wikimedia Commons

ecoRI.org: The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are building nine small-scale, experimental reefs in Quonochontaug Pond.

As part of a multiyear project, scientists seek to find out whether building oyster reefs in shallow coastal areas can improve the growth and survival of early life stages of recreationally important fish such as black sea bass, tautog, striped bass, scup, summer flounder and winter flounder.

The underwater reefs are being built with steam-shucked surf clam shells, transported by barge from the Quonochontaug Fishing Area boat ramp to restoration sites at the far eastern and western ends of the pond. The sites were selected as suitable for oysters and close to high-quality, underutilized fish habitat. The new reefs will be covered with a layer of oyster shells and seeded with live oysters. State regulations prohibit oyster harvesting in Quonochontaug Pond, protecting the reefs and allowing for oyster propagation and growth.

“Complex structures like oyster reefs are critically important for juvenile fish, providing excellent feeding areas and protecting them from open-water predators,” said Scott Comings, associate state director for TNC in Rhode Island. “The hope with this project is that if we put shells back in the water seeded with juvenile oysters, marine life will quickly colonize the reefs and re-establish the habitat we’ve lost over time.”

Read more about the oyster reefs in Quonochontaug Pond.