Hearing on Closure of Oyster Reef Restoration Site

DURHAM, NH — The NH Fish and Game Department has received a request from The Nature Conservancy to close to shellfish harvest a five-acre area of Great Bay where they are currently conducting an oyster reef restoration program. Fish and Game will hold a public hearing regarding the request at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, October 4, 2016, at the Urban forestry Center, 45 Elwyn Road, Portsmouth, NH. At the hearing, The Nature Conservancy will give a presentation about the restoration project and the Department will take public comment on their request to close the five-acre site to shellfish harvest.

State law (RSA 211:63-b) gives the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department the authority to “order a closing of clam, oyster, and other bivalve areas for the purpose of restoration of the area, provided that the closure will not unduly interfere with existing or anticipated commercial or recreational activities.” Such a closure “shall continue in effect for a period of not more than 5 years.”

The five-acre restoration site is located between the Nannies Island and Woodman Point oyster beds (see map; select image for larger view) and is currently marked with white buoys. Only the five-acre restoration site shown on the map is being proposed for closure t o shellfish harvest. The existing Nannies Island and Woodman Point oyster beds would remain open to recreational oyster harvesters. The Nature Conservancy is requesting that the closure be in effect for five years to increase the likelihood of successful establishment of an oyster population at the site.

In July of 2016, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services issued a permit to The Nature Conservancy to begin construction of an oyster reef by placing 500 yards of seasoned surf clam shell in piles across the project area. The shell was placed this past summer, and more than one million oyster spat (newly spawned oysters) on shell will be placed in the restoration area this fall to seed the growth of oysters at the site. It is anticipated that the reef will also provide suitable structure for natural spat set originating from spawning oysters on the adjacent existing reefs.