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Pandemic-hit oyster farmers turn to conservation to survive

The Nature Conservancy is spending $2 million over two years to buy more than 5 million oysters for restoration efforts.
Credit: AP
Kyle Pfau, an oysterman with Fat Dog Shellfish Co., dumps out a tray of adult "Uglie" oysters from Maine onto a relocation area at Great Bay, Monday, May 3, 2021, in Durham, N.H. Thousands of Uglies from Maine, which were left to grow due to lack of retail demand of more than a year because of the virus outbreak, were relocated to Great Bay to enhance the shellfish species in New Hampshire coastal waters. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

DURHAM, N.H. — When the pandemic hit, oyster farmers found the restaurants that sold their bivalves had largely closed. 

Many faced economic ruin until a conservation group along with two federal agencies offered to buy up millions of oysters in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Washington state as part of a program to restore shellfish reefs at 20 locations. 

The Nature Conservancy is spending $2 million over two years to buy more than 5 million oysters for restoration efforts. 

The oyster reefs provide critical habitat for fish and help protect shorelines from erosion. Oysters filter out pollutants and excess nutrients from the water.