Summary: Meeting of the Restoration Working Group, May 29th at the URI Bay Campus

A group of nearly 20 researchers, state managers, and fishermen met on May 29th to discuss shellfish restoration efforts in the state. This was the first meeting since April 2012 and the group took this opportunity to share latest research and findings from their restoration projects. Dave Beutel from CRMC facilitated the event but this is a rotating role that will be assumed by DEM at the next Working Group meeting.

Boze Hancock with The Nature Conservancy opened the discussion with updates from their national oyster goal-setting work, now that the science is clear on the environmental benefits of restoration. This project involves documenting the level of 3 major ecosystem services that are provided per unit of restored oyster reef, water filtration, production of fish and nitrogen removed from the system.  This is designed to allow consideration  of how much oyster restoration is “enough” based on how much of any service is desired.. He discussed the research on de-nitrification work being done in Ninigret pond, a collaborative effort between TNC, Boston University, and the Environmental Protection Agency. For more information on TNC’s restoration activities, click here.

Azure Cygler from the Coastal Resources Center gave brief updates on the Shellfish Management Plan, including the summer seminar schedule (including a June 13 use maps discussion, “Learn How to Dig Clams” classes, and tours of aquaculture and shellfish processing operations), developing a Table of Contents for the SMP, and discussing the idea of having Technical Advisory Committees who can help draft management recommendations. For more info, visit

Jeff Mercer, shellfish biologist at RI DEM spoke briefly about the importance of this group and DEM’s role as largely supporting and facilitating restoration efforts being done by the various groups in RI. He encouraged recommendations for how DEM can improve their support so this important work continues.

Robbie Hudson from Save the Bay discussed their work in the Bay and coastal ponds, with the main focus on bay scallop restoration in Ninigret pond. Since 2007, Save the Bay has used 80,000 scallops as broodstock to help enhance the bay scallop populations where the sanctuaries have been set up. The scallop harvest season does not start until November. Their work relies on volunteers and includes setting spat lines, dive surveys, and a benthic survey. For more info and to volunteer, check out Just this month, another 9,000 broodstock scallops were released.

Matt Griffin from the Roger Williams Oyster Gardening project (OGRE) outlined population structure and disease prevalence through OGRE and the North Cape restoration sites. There have been over 7 million oysters seeded over 4 acres since 2003, with highest survival last year at the OGRE sites. Issues include seed suffocation on mud bottom, Dermo presence, and desire to seed and restore in closed waters which is currently a prohibited activity. There is also a need to out-pace mortality by seeding frequently, which needs to be discussed. The quickness of land use changes on our coast also makes using historical baselines difficult in terms of oyster populations, and other species as well. Continued discussion about setting new baselines for habitat, species populations, water quality, etc. is necessary.

Steve Brown from The Nature Conservancy discussed research in Ninigret pond, determining baselines and surveying EQIP sites. TNC has developed a Habitat Suitability Model which requires some feedback from the Working Group. Overall, oysters seem to prefer low salinity water which often means higher fecal coliform counts, which closes the area to harvesting and restoration efforts. TNC also relies on volunteers to bag shells for restoration efforts and constructing shell reefs in the summer, so contact Steve at for more info.

Time did not allow for a full discussion of a Vision and Goals for the group, however this was stressed as a need. The intention will be for a smaller working group to meet and develop a draft Vision/Goals, which will be given to the SMP team to be incorporated stand-alone into the SMP document. For more info or to become involved in this Vision/Goal setting, contact Robbie at