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The original item was published from 10/9/2018 11:20:00 AM to 11/1/2018 12:00:00 AM.

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Shellfish Commission

Posted on: September 26, 2018

[ARCHIVED] Press Release - Shellfish Study

Boat named Victor Loosanoff


What is the value of Greenwich’s shellfish?

A NOAA Fisheries research vessel, the R/V Victor Loosanoff, will be in Greenwich waters from Monday, October 1st through Friday, October 5th, to allow scientists to conduct a shellfish
population survey. This survey is an important piece of an ongoing study which will provide the town, and particularly shellfish growers and harvesters, with data on the value of shellfish beyond
the seafood market. The study will also yield a methodology that other coastal communities can follow to quantify the economic value of environmental benefits provided by shellfish.

Shellfish such as hard clams and oysters feed by filtering algae and other organic material from
the local environment. These suspension-feeding animals incorporate nutrients from their food into
their own tissue and shell as they grow. Their feeding activity leaves water cleaner and clearer.
Studies have shown that filter feeding shellfish can improve water quality in coastal areas that
have excess nutrients and an overabundance of algae.

The NOAA Fisheries Milford Lab has a long history of conducting applied research to address
questions of importance to communities and the shellfish aquaculture industry. Scientists at the
NOAA Fisheries Milford Lab contributed to a recent project that modeled nutrient removal from Long
Island Sound waters by Connecticut’s oyster industry and calculated what this nutrient removal
service would cost if it was provided by traditional nutrient reduction
strategies, such as wastewater treatment.

The Milford Lab is now working on a pilot study to document the local environmental benefits
provided by shellfish by measuring and modeling nutrient capture and water quality improvements
provided by clams and oysters in Greenwich. Collaborating with the Greenwich Shellfish Commission,
a NOAA scientist focused on mathematical modeling, and a Stony Brook University economist, they are
using a multidisciplinary approach to assign value to the environmental benefits of natural and
aquacultured shellfish. Greenwich is a good model for investigating the benefits of shellfish; the
town has a long tradition of shellfish cultivation, has committed to active shellfishing
management, and has improved its water quality substantially
in recent years.

To complete a comprehensive valuation of Greenwich’s shellfish resources, the research team
had to develop the methods to collect a reliable population estimate for all of the clams and
oysters in Greenwich waters. With help from the Greenwich Shellfish Commission, the team connected
with local Greenwich oyster growers and integrated their use of commercial shellfish resources into
the model. The growers provided estimates of population density, types of gear used, and mortality
rates for the commercial leases.

In the current phase of this project, the research team will conduct a five day shellfish survey
across Greenwich in October. During the survey, scientists will sample from more than a hundred
randomly selected stations spanning all types of shellfish areas (natural beds, commercial leases,
etc.). At each station, they will take a take a one-foot-square sample from the seabed to a depth
of about six inches. From the samples collected, scientists will be able to quantify the mean clam
density across the entire Greenwich seabed, map the relative density of clams across the seabed,
and measure the size distribution of clams. Obtaining clam population data across all habitat types
is critical for generating a realistic model and accurately appraising Greenwich’s shellfish

Please call
Joan Tracey Seguin - Greenwich Shellfish Commission - 203 253 5852
Roger Bowgen - Greenwich Shellfish Commission - 203 243 6364

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