A dozen volunteers gathered at the Lagoon Pond last Saturday morning to do something no one could recall being done on the Vineyard. They came to harvest floating mats of algae in Mud Creek in Vineyard Haven. It was both an experiment and a beginning for an expanding effort to manage and improve the water quality in coastal ponds.
In three hours of harvesting and lifting, the group filled the back of a pickup truck with wet, emerald green algae.
Megan Ottens-Sargent, chairman of the Martha’s Vineyard Water Alliance who headed the effort, said the algae harvest is part of an effort to improve water quality in the creek. “We are basically harvesting the algae bloom, before it dies off and sinks to the bottom,” she said. Nitrogen makes its way into the pond through groundwater. The algae feeds on the nitrogen and grows, soon becoming a mat. When it dies and sinks to the bottom, the algae decays and smothers sea life on the bottom, including shellfish.
As for the algae taken from the pond, Ms. Ottens-Sargent said: “We’ve got some interested farmers who see it as a great addition to compost.”
The Saturday morning project had the support of members of the Lagoon Pond Association, Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, the Great Pond Foundation and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Tisbury shellfish constable Danielle Ewart also joined the group. Maciel Marine, a neighbor, assisted by providing the small boats. Among those offering expertise was Emma Green-Beach, who works for the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole and also at the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group.
Ms. Ottens-Sargent said she was pleased by the experiment. “This is a beginning which I think will become Islandwide,” she said.