The more bivalves, the better

Thu, 01/14/2021 - 6:30pm

Members of the Shellfish Commission, along with Harbormaster Kate McConville and Head Shellfish Warden Nancy Ziomek got busy planning to bring back the upweller at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

The town-owned upweller, used to grow tiny shellfish, is located at the Block Island Maritime Institute docks next to their building in New Harbor. It takes a lot of work to nurture the shellfish with the hopes of growing them out to a large enough size that they can withstand predators. In past years it has been used to grow oysters and quahogs, but this past summer, with everything else going on, it went unused.

The commission has talked in the past about perhaps trying other species, and Ziomek reported that she had talked with Roger Williams University about seed availability for this spring, and that the lab there might be able to provide the town with some oyster seed.

Ziomek said that in the past they had “a good success rate with oysters.”

Although only talking about a relatively small amount of seed, it became clear that it might be more complicated when it became time to distribute the oysters. They would not be for sale for consumption, and are not for any planned or existing oyster restoration projects.

McConville said: “You can’t just drop oysters in the restoration area without a permit. We need to think about how we’re going to end this project.”

Of major value is the educational aspect of the upweller. Ziomek said that the kids at BIMI got to see the growth of the shellfish over time and learn about the species. Education, she said “is one of my driving hopes for making it operational.” She added that the educational component was one of the factors when the town got permission from the Rhode Island Coastal Management Resources Council to install it.

“As far as oysters,” said member George Davis, “I don’t have a problem with that. The more bivalves, the better for the pond.”