The Nature Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trusts Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR) Program

The following is being published as a courtesy to The Nature Conservancy.

With the market for aquaculture oysters seriously affected by Covid-19, funds are available to purchase excess and oversize oysters form select growers to contribute to oyster reef restoration projects.

55c per piece is offered to ME growers outside the MSX closure, for oysters above 2.5 inches.

TNC & Pew have formed a partnership in coordination with NOAA, the Oyster Aquaculture Industry, ME DMR, ME Sea Grant and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to launch the SOAR program to purchase oysters to stock restoration sites in non-harvest sanctuaries. The aim is to help oyster farmers impacted by COVID-19 by getting some cash into the industry, getting some excess product off the market to help to alleviate the downward pressure on prices, and use the product to enhance restored oyster reefs and the ecosystem services they provide.

The SOAR Purchase Program will target ME, NH, MA, NY, NJ, MD and WA state. The program has $2Million for oyster purchase across the seven states, with additional funds for transport, pathology, import permits, monitoring and management. Sea Grant and the NRCS are involved in similar programs in some states and we are coordinating to provide some relief to as many growers as possible. The program purchased Maine oysters in November and December 2020 prior to transport ending due to winter weather and will be starting to purchase oysters again in April 2021.

While ME does not have any substantive area of oyster reef restoration, the NH Fish and Game Department supports oyster restoration in Great Bay under the management and scientific permit of TNC NH. New Hampshire has agreed to the import of ME oysters with pathology clearance and inspection for invasive species. The price of 55c per piece is offered based historical market prices and in an effort to treat all growers fairly and equally.

Biosecurity is a primary consideration when moving large oysters between water bodies. Due to detections of the oyster pathogen MSX, there are restrictions on the movement of oysters from all waters located north of a line beginning at the southernmost tip of Pemaquid Point in South Bristol and extending southwest to the southernmost tip of Kennebec Point in Georgetown, including the Damariscotta, Johns, Sheepscot, Cross, Back, and Sasanoa Rivers, and all tributaries (DMR Chapter 24.10 Regulations). North of that line transport of oysters to other water bodies is prohibited due to biosecurity concerns. We hope there is benefit to these growers from the program removing additional product from the market outside this area.

Growers outside the closed area can participate with a pathology report and screening for biofouling which the program will pay for and assist with coordination.

If interested, please contact Alix Laferriere, TNC NH Coastal & Marine Program Dir., at alix.laferriere@TNC.ORG .