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Oct 31, 2016 10:58 AM

Oyster bed restoration project brings nearby shellfishing ban

A five-acre area of Great Bay will be shut for from shellfishing for 5 years starting November 1 as part of a restoration project under the direction of The Nature Conservancy designed to fix an oyster reef.

According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the five-acre site is located between the Nannies Island and Woodman Point oyster beds. Beds there will remain open. The affected area will be marked each year between April and November during the entire closure period.

Officials say the closure should not impact current recreational activities in the area. In addition, commercial activities will not be impacted, since oysters and soft shell clams taken in state waters may not be sold.

Recreational boating interests will not be affected, since there will be sufficient water above the beds at all tides to permit movement of such vessels over the closure area.

The restoration project began in July of 2016, when the NH Department of Environmental Services issued a permit to The Nature Conservancy to begin construction of an oyster reef by placing 500 cubic yards of seasoned surf clam shell in piles across the project area. The shell material was physically placed during the summer of 2016, and in early October more than one million newly spawned oysters, called oyster spat, were placed in the restoration area to seed the growth of oysters at the site.

Officials anticipate the reef will also provide suitable structure for natural spat set originating from spawning oysters on the adjacent existing oyster reefs.

The Nature Conservancy requested that the closure be in effect for five years to increase the likelihood of successful establishment of an oyster population at the site.

The Nature Conservancy will provide the Fish and Game Department with annual reports on the progress of the project, together with an evaluation of its success and recommendations, if any, for additional restoration activities within the Great Bay Estuary.

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