The Nature Conservancy would like to thank our partners in this past year’s oyster restoration project in the Tisbury Great Pond, straddling the Chilmark/West Tisbury town line at the mouth of Town Cove. In particular, among the many people and organizations that assisted the project, the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group and the shellfish departments of Chilmark and West Tisbury played especially critical roles.
The towns and the shellfish group have been successfully managing shellfish populations in the pond for years now, and we commend their efforts to boost water quality and improve a traditional community resource. This year’s cooperative restoration project added a few twists to their ongoing work: Our mutual goal is to establish a permanent oyster reef that can provide habitat for fish and invertebrates, filter water and serve as a source of spawning oysters for the entire pond.
But the basic methods we used — placement of culch (aged shell) on the pond bottom followed by the introduction of remote set oysters produced by the shellfish group — were taken directly from the towns’ playbook. This project simply would not have been possible without the skills, experience, equipment and hard work of the Vineyard shellfish community.
The conservancy also gratefully acknowledges the support of the Edey Foundation, which helped fund our monitoring efforts for the project, and the George G. and Doris B. Daniels Wildlife Trust, which helped cover implementation costs. Thanks, too, to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank for providing a staging area for culch placement at Sepiessa Point.
Monitoring in October showed that the project’s culch piles were supporting large numbers of natural set oysters, spawned in the pond, as well as many thousands of surviving remote set oysters supplied by the shelfish group. While it will be several challenging years before these oysters mature to reproductive age, these initial results are highly encouraging.
The Great Ponds represent a recreational, economic and ecological resource that benefits the entire Vineyard. Though these ponds are under stress, they also have a broad constituency of hard-working, committed, and incredibly knowledgeable Vineyarders working to protect them. The conservancy considers it an honor to be working with the Island shellfish community in this important effort.
The writer is restoration ecologist for The Nature Conservancy.