Grant in Action: Shellfish Nursery – Part 2!

Written by Allison Flowerdew

The evolution of Mr. Cuthbert’s shellfish nursery is in full swing! For those of you who are wondering how Part 1 ended, you’ll be happy to know the clams were transplanted into Broad Cove. Mission accomplished!!
Morgan is now introducing oysters and kelp into the mix. Both oysters and kelp are restorative crops, which help to clean the ocean.  Here are some fun facts…
Oysters:  One oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. That’s some serious cleaning power! Oysters feed from April to November.

Kelp:  Kelp grows 2″ a day! Yup, 2 inches! Kelp grows from November to April.

Today couldn’t have been a more beautiful day for Mr. Cuthbert’s class to travel down to the Royal River to visit the shellfish nursery. Morgan explained to the students how the shellfish nursery works, then had the kids set up the silos and clean the tank. He is prepping for the arrival of 10,000 oyster seeds, which will be coming soon!
Shellfish Nursery on the Royal River
More cleaning…
After Morgan explained how the shellfish nursery works, he turned it over to Thomas Henninger who farms both oysters and kelp. Thomas explained to the students how the oysters feed inside a holding tank, aptly named an Oyster Gro (this is a new system, developed in Canada).
Oyster Gro
Thomas explained that the oysters will be placed in the black cages and the empty gray tanks keep the cages afloat. The cages will be tied to a rope that is anchored at the bottom of the ocean and the cages will line up in a row, from one buoy to another buoy. Initially, the black cages will be under water, so the oysters can feed on the algae. After about 9 or 10 days, the cage gets all gunked up (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term 😉 with algae, barnacles and mussels. Once this happens, the cages are flipped over, so the gray tanks are under water and the black cages are exposed to the air and sun. It only take a few days for the sun and air to dry everything up, naturally cleaning the cages. The cages are then flipped back over into the water so the oysters can start feeding again. Presto!! No cleaning required!
Around Thanksgiving, when the ocean temperature reaches about 42 degrees, the gray tanks will be filled with water and the cages will sink to the bottom of the ocean for the winter months. Around April, the cages will be pulled back up again, the water will be drained from the gray tanks, and the oysters will start feeding again.
Thomas Henninger’s oyster lesson
When the 10,000 oysters arrive, Morgan and his team (raising Seniors and other recruits) will take care of the oysters in the shellfish nursery and learn the best conditions for the oysters to grow (water temp, ph level etc). Once the oysters grow to 1/2″, half of them will be transferred into the Oyster Gro and will head out to Casco Bay (around Madeleine Point). The other half will stay in the shellfish nursery for observation.
In two years time, the oysters will hopefully be big enough to sell to chefs in Portland.  And, if we are really lucky, maybe Morgan will have an oyster booth at the Clam Fest!
The kelp will be delivered in October. The kelp grows on lines that are connected from buoy to buoy. Morgan and Thomas informed the students that kelp is found in toothpaste, ice cream and many cosmetic products. I’m not sure eating ice cream will ever be the same.
Sending along a special thank you to Morgan for keeping the shellfish nursery grant going! Hands on learning is so important.  And, thank you to Thomas for sharing his time and expertise with the students today.  He is going to continue to work with Morgan and the students on this grant.  The learning continues…

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