What We Do
Shellfish seed production begins at the Shellfish Group's Solar-assisted Hatchery on the shore of Lagoon Pond in Tisbury, Massachusetts. Constructed in 1980 during the energy crisis, the facility was the nation's first public solar shellfish hatchery.
All the species produced by MVSG (quahogs, oysters, mussels, and bay scallops) are spawned and cultured through planktonic larval stages in the solar hatchery. After setting, the juvenile shellfish are transferred to the Group's Shellfish Nurseries on Chappaquiddick Island in Edgartown and at the former Lobster Hatchery now Hughes Hatchery in Oak Bluffs for further growth in upweller silos.
Eventually, the juvenile shellfish are moved to field nursery systems outside the hatchery and throughout the waters of the member towns. There they grow in warm surface waters protected from predators for one season before being bottom planted on public beds.
Each year the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group publishes a Seed Shellfish Distribution Report. You can find our reports from as far back at 1999 under the "reports" tab.
Shell Recycling: Martha’s Vineyard Shell Recovery Partnership (MVSRP) was formed in 2011 by Jessie (Kanozak) Holtham. She knew that MVSG uses shell for oyster restoration, and was appalled by the quantity of shell that was thrown away by restaurants instead of being put back into the ponds. With encouragement from MVSG, Jessie applied to the Edey Foundation for funding to pursue her idea. In 2012 Jessie was awarded a Vineyard Vision Fellowship for her shell recycling project and since 2012, the project has received funding from Edey Foundation, Farm Neck Foundation, Patagonia, Proud Pour and various other small fundraisers and donations. Emma Green-Beach has managed the program since 2014.
The goals of shell recycling are: 1) reduce bulk waste from the Island waste stream; 2) support the resiliency of our salt ponds to acidification by increasing their buffering capacity; 3) provide locally sourced shell for oyster restoration projects managed by the Shellfish Group and the municipal propagation programs.
Experimenting with Kelp culture: The MVSG has been investigating the potential for seaweed culture under funding from the Edey Foundation. 2016 was our first real success story as we produced high quality kelpling spools of the species Saccharina latissima in our new nursery. A kelp line was deployed on the Cottage City Oysters site in OB as a first attempt to grow the kelp to market size. With every road block we learn more about this new crop. We have secured another season of funding and should be producing kelp lines next fall to deploy all over Vineyard waters to identify the best possible conditions for its success.
Harvesting Phragmites to remove nitrogen: Despite its invasive nature, there is scientific evidence that Phragmites australis provides important ecological services, especially sequestration of nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus. Phragmites’ high nutrient absorption efficiency has been exploited for nutrient management in eutrophied estuaries and in wastewater treatment applications, all around the world.
The ultimate goal of this project was to determine how much nitrogen is contained in the aerial tissue of Phragmites on Martha’s Vineyard; and therefor how much nitrogen could potentially be removed from the nutrient cycle by harvesting the reeds.
Seed funding was provided by the Edey Foundation and full project funding was provided by the US EPA with a Healthy Communities Grant in 2015. Partners included: Dr. Jamie Vaudrey (UConn), Sheri Caseau and Chris Seidel (MV Commission), Liz Durkee (OB ConCom), Kristen Fauteux (Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation), Saunders Associates, Mermaid Farm, Polly Hill Arboretum, World Stove, and IGI Farm Hub.
The shellfish raised by the MVSG are filter feeders and require several species of phytoplankton to grow and thrive. The species grown in our green house are Tetraselmis chui, a high lipid strain, a Tahitian strain of Isochrysis galbana, and the diatoms (silicaecous life-forms) Thalassiosira weissfloggii, Chaetoceros graclis, and a high lipid strain of Chaetoceros neogracili ("Chaet B").
Both cultured and wild Island oyster populations continue to suffer losses from Juvenile Oyster Disease (JOD) and Dermo. We continue to monitor the status of Dermo, an oyster disease infecting the local oysters in both Edgartown and Tisbury Great Ponds.
Interestingly, a good percentage of the population of oysters in both ponds appears to be surviving in spite of the Dermo infection and experiments have shown that the offspring of broodstock selected from survivors in Edgartown Great Pond are twice as resistant to Dermo as a control population. We use these Dermo resistant oysters from Edgartown Great Pond as broodstock for our seeding program in Tisbury and Edgartown Great Ponds in hopes of speeding up the recovery of the decimated populations there. Please note that both JOD and Dermo are diseases of oysters and pose no threat to humans consuming the oysters.