QBC’s oyster aquaculture program at once shows the progress we are making both to restore Quahog Bay and to create a national model of self-funding local environmental action.
You could also say it’s a delicious way to put our money where your mouth is.
When the QBC was launched in 2014 the water quality in Quahog Bay was so poor the state of Maine had imposed a ban on all shellfish harvesting within its boundaries. As a direct result of our efforts to clean the bay and improve its water quality that ban was lifted in 2014.
The lifting of those prohibitions allowed QBC to launch an ambitious oyster aquaculture program that supports our organizational goals in several important ways.
First, oysters are filter feeders. By farming oysters in quantity we have effectively installed a natural water treatment facility that cleans more than five billion gallons of seawater annually.
Second, by marketing our Snow Island Oysters to local markets, restaurants and seafood distributors we are creating a sustainable revenue stream to fund our programs. We are working with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute with the goal of creating a national model that utilizes small-scale shellfish aquaculture to finance local organizations dedicated to environmental protection.
Third, our aquaculture site is a terrific educational resource that we make available to local schools and students in an effort to foster greater awareness of and interest in our planet’s delicate ecosystems, the environmental challenges of our times, and how we can best care for the earth and its oceans.
Growing oysters is a delicate process. A hatchery grows the larva. In about three weeks the larvae go through what is known as settlement, the process by which a larva fuses itself to a tiny fragment of oyster shell. At this point, the tiny oyster is only 1.5 to 2mm and is called a seed.
We buy the seeds in lots of 100,000 animals from a local Maine hatchery, Muscongus Bay Aquaculture, Inc. When the seeds are delivered they are immediately placed into QBC’s upweller, a specialized tank system that functions like a nursery for infant oysters.
The upweller’s job is to help the oysters grow as fast as possible to a size that can be safely handled with limited risk of mortality. It works by pumping fresh, nutrient rich water up through a mesh screen on which the tiny oysters rest. The animals filter the nutrients from the upwelling water. In about three weeks they grow rapidly from just a couple millimeters to a half-inch or more.
The oysters are then transferred to mesh bags, which are placed in our floating cages around Snow Island. From there the oysters require two to three years to reach maturity. They are then sold to restaurants, markets and seafood distributors.
At any given time we have about 300,000 oysters in the cages around Snow Island. Within a few years we intend to increase that number to almost one million.
100% of the proceeds from the sale of our oysters are returned to the QBC to fund our many programs to clean the Bay.
Please ask for Snow Island Oysters at your favorite market or restaurant. We think you’ll agree, being green never tasted so good.
We are currently in the process of setting up our online order forms. For now, to purchase Snow Island Oysters, please call our office number (207) 522-1105 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find them locally at:
The Vegetable Corner
509 Harpswell Road,
Harpswell, ME 04079
Phone: (207) 729-2719
Gurnet Trading Co
602 Gurnet Rd,
Brunswick, ME 04011
Phone: (207) 729-7300
Each week QBC staff collects water samples at nine sites around the bay. Samples are tracked and analyzed across a spectrum of data points including temperature, pH, oxygen, salinity and levels of bacteria and phytoplankton. The resulting data provides an expanding record of where we are and where we’re going. This information provides much more than a deeper understanding of the Bay and how the seasons, weather and tides affect water quality. It also flags problem areas that we can then target for specific remediation initiatives.
For many decades the waters of Quahog Bay have been plagued by a handful of older properties with turn of the century septic systems. These legacy systems (known as Overboard Discharge Systems or OBD) pump their untreated sewage directly into the Bay. This sewage was the primary driver of Quahog Bay's shellfish harvesting ban. One of our most impactful initiatives to date has been to locate, remove and replace Quahog Bay's antique sewage systems.
We have identified six OBD systems and have removed and replaced four of them. We are currently negotiating with the last two property owners to update their systems.
In 2018, QBC team was trained by DMR Public Health Officials to be phytoplankton volunteers. We collect water samples in the spring, summer, and fall using field microscopes to identify toxic phytoplankton species. Volunteers work independently after receiving training and equipment needed to collect samples.
The invasive European green crab is a menace to the ecosystems of the coast of Maine and Quahog Bay.
It is an adaptable, prolific, and voracious predator that destroys mussel beds, clam flats and scallop stocks, simultaneously destroying eelgrass habitat and causing increased erosion in bays and estuaries.
With 100 active traps in Quahog Bay, QBC is one of the largest harvesters of green crabs in the state. But to control the green crab in any meaningful way requires a market incentive for fishermen to catch them. This entails inventing new ways to prepare them for human consumption and/or developing new feeds and fertilizers for agriculture.
QBC is committed to finding new commercial uses for green crab to halt its increasingly devastating impact to native species and the good people who depend on them to earn a living.
An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. To that end, QBC offers free on-call pump-out service to any boats anchored in Quahog Bay. We pump it and then transport the waste to a licensed local facility, thereby potentially preventing thousands of gallons of brown and gray wastewater from being discharged into the bay every year. We also created an education program to make sure boaters know about our free service and to encourage them to take advantage of it.
If your boating plans call for a visit to Quahog Bay please call the QBC Pump Out phone for service at (207) 522-1105.
We’re here to pump you out!
Department of Marine Resources and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection are being used to identify active pollution sources and target their removal.
Two pollution sources have been completely remediated on Snow Island, and several other pollution sources in the Bay are in the process of being identified, with the intent of creating successful remediation strategies for those sites as well.
Since 2014, QBC has removed hundreds of cubic yards of litter and marine debris from the Bay – enough to fill massive dumpsters with everything from fishing gear, foam, bottles and rope to cigarette butts, tires, appliances and car batteries.
If we see it on the water or on the shore, we go get it.
But we don’t stop there. We have certified divers on staff who use SCUBA gear to find and remove trash on the sea bed and we have a boat with a mechanical lift to haul heavy stuff to the surface.
In addition to our trash removal efforts, we also work to educate the community about the impact of trash on the health and beauty of the Quahog Bay.
Education & Outreach
In 2016 QBC created a $10,000 scholarship fund to support the senior research projects of undergraduate marine science students. Each year we donate $5,000 to both Bowdoin College and the Maine Maritime Academy to underwrite the marine research conducted by their students. We will be opening up this scholarship at the beginning of each year for students to apply. Additionally, we work with local high schools to create hands-on opportunities for the next generation of environmental stewards.
QBC also host a number of educational events and workshops. Please keep an eye on our "News" tab and social media outlets.