Consider the lowly oyster, a homely bivalve if ever there was one.
It has always seemed unlikely as a culinary delicacy. But it turns out that flavor is only part of its charm.
Shellfish constables in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs have proposed a relatively low cost plan to harness the oyster’s exceptional ability to remove nitrogen from water to help reduce pollution in Sengekontacket Pond. According to a 2009 report by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, an adult oyster can pump and filter up to 50 gallons of pond water per day.
In Oak Bluffs, shellfish constable Dave Grunden is seeking a little less than $50,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to start an annual program of seeding 500,000 oysters in Major’s Cove, among the most polluted sections of Senge. If use of CPA funds for this purpose is approved, the proposed expenditure would then need to be voted on at town meeting.
In Edgartown, shellfish constable Paul Bagnall wants to ask town voters to spend $24,000 to start a program for 250,000 oyster seeds for the pond.
To be sure, the oyster project is a small part of what is needed to restore the health of the 4,440-acre Sengekontacket Pond, which spans the two down-Island towns. Water quality studies released last year found nitrogen levels in Major’s Cove and Trapp’s Pond were 60 per cent above acceptable limits. The shellfish constables estimate that the oyster project could reduce nitrogen by 5 to 10 per cent.
But for an initial investment of just $75,000, this is a far sight cheaper than major sewage construction, and seems like an easy call to start addressing a vexing environmental problem.
The expenditures being sought this year are largely for equipment to hatch the oysters; in subsequent years, the cost of re-seeding would be just a few thousand annually, Mr. Grunden said. As a bonus, after two years when the first oysters reached harvest size, the pond would have a new recreational fishery.
What’s not to like?