GREENWICH SHELLFISH COMMISSIONPRESS RELEASESEPTEMBER 26TH 2018
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 shellfishpopulation 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 beyondthe 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.
Background:Shellfish such as hard clams and oysters feed by filtering algae and other organic material fromthe local environment. These suspension-feeding animals incorporate nutrients from their food intotheir 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 thathave excess nutrients and an overabundance of algae.
The NOAA Fisheries Milford Lab has a long history of conducting applied research to addressquestions of importance to communities and the shellfish aquaculture industry. Scientists at theNOAA Fisheries Milford Lab contributed to a recent project that modeled nutrient removal from LongIsland Sound waters by Connecticut’s oyster industry and calculated what this nutrient removalservice would cost if it was provided by traditional nutrient reductionstrategies, such as wastewater treatment.
The Milford Lab is now working on a pilot study to document the local environmental benefitsprovided by shellfish by measuring and modeling nutrient capture and water quality improvementsprovided 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 areusing a multidisciplinary approach to assign value to the environmental benefits of natural andaquacultured shellfish. Greenwich is a good model for investigating the benefits of shellfish; thetown has a long tradition of shellfish cultivation, has committed to active shellfishingmanagement, and has improved its water quality substantiallyin recent years.
To complete a comprehensive valuation of Greenwich’s shellfish resources, the research teamhad to develop the methods to collect a reliable population estimate for all of the clams andoysters in Greenwich waters. With help from the Greenwich Shellfish Commission, the team connectedwith local Greenwich oyster growers and integrated their use of commercial shellfish resources intothe model. The growers provided estimates of population density, types of gear used, and mortalityrates for the commercial leases.
In the current phase of this project, the research team will conduct a five day shellfish surveyacross Greenwich in October. During the survey, scientists will sample from more than a hundredrandomly 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 depthof about six inches. From the samples collected, scientists will be able to quantify the mean clamdensity 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 typesis critical for generating a realistic model and accurately appraising Greenwich’s shellfishresources
FOR MORE INFORMATIONPlease callJoan Tracey Seguin - Greenwich Shellfish Commission - 203 253 5852Roger Bowgen - Greenwich Shellfish Commission - 203 243 6364