With Island ponds suffering from the effects of development, the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group is looking at an old foe in a new light. The shellfish group has been studying the invasive wetland grass phragmites as a possible means for removing nitrogen from coastal ponds.
On a brisk late April morning, Rick Karney stands at a large sink filled with warm water and 24 Pyrex glass meatloaf dishes filled with filtered salt water and quahaugs. As executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, Rick is at the leading edge of ongoing work to keep the Island’s abundant shellfish population healthy and productive.
The Vineyard’s first offshore blue mussel farm has a new owner with a long-term vision for the local fishing industry. Stanley Larsen, owner of Menemsha Fish Market, recently took over a shellfish grant for the continued operation of the aquaculture farm.
Funding was announced Friday for three key projects: the restoration initiative at Squibnocket Beach in Chilmark; a pilot by the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group to sow marshlands with ribbed mussels; and a project at Barges Beach on Cuttyhunk.
With nitrogen pollution a perpetual concern for Vineyard waterways, two towns are hoping that a shellfish experiment will be the latest puzzle piece to fall into place.
Voters in Chilmark and Tisbury will be asked at their respective town meetings next week to fund pilot programs aimed at reducing nitrogen levels in two locations: Chilmark Pond and Lagoon Pond. Through the funding and a partnership with the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, test reefs of noncommercial oysters will be cultivated, in addition to beds of native ribbed mussels.