Support the Health of Great Bay by Sharing its Use With Oyster Farmers.

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One of only 28 regions in the U.S. designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as estuaries of national significance, the New Hampshire Great Bay is in crisis and continues to decline.  This is an undisputed fact, as reported in many long-term and ongoing studies, for example, this most recent one (http://www.stateofourestuaries.org/2018-reports/sooe-full-report/) by the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP), part of the U.S. EPA’s National Estuary Program (https://www.epa.gov/nep)

While all reports conclude that more oysters are better for the ecology of the bay, efforts to restore natural oyster habitat in Great Bay are struggling in the face of unrelenting stressors entering from the more-than 1000 square mile watershed that supplies its fresh water.  These factors continue to degrade habitat for the core species, such as eelgrass, that according to NOAA "...provide a safe haven and protective nursery for small fish, shellfish, migrating birds, and coastal shore animals. In the U.S., estuaries are nurseries to more than 75 percent of all fish and shellfish harvested."

Equally undisputed are the numerous ways in which a thriving oyster population can significantly help to mitigate the stressors to this complex ecosystem.  Many of the harmful factors identified in the PREP report, such as light blocking water turbidity due to suspended sediment, excess nutrients due to fertilizer runoff, depleted dissolved oxygen due to phytoplankton/seaweed blooms and die-off, can all be mitigated by a healthy oyster population.

New England Superior Oysters (NESO) has been trying to start a small, sustainable, oyster farm near the mouth of the Bellamy River on Great Bay for about two years.  Permit applications to the NH Fish and Game Department have been repeatedly denied due to opposition to a shared use of the bay by a small fraction of abutting homeowners and a condominium association. Those in opposition would prefer to reserve the use of the bay north of the Scammell Bridge solely for recreational activities at the expense of the health of the bay.  

In the interest of remediating the ongoing deterioration of Great Bay and restoring beneficial ecologies, we the undersigned support granting the NESO permit currently before the committee and prioritizing the approval of projects with a known and significant positive impact to the health of the bay.

 



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