Eelgrass is Great, but Shellfish
Aquaculture is Better
For several years resource managers have recognized the ecological
benefits of eelgrass meadows and the excellent ecosystem services
rendered by these environments. These benefits include nitrogen
removal, benthic stabilization, increased sedimentation of
particles, and the valuable vertical structure providing
habitat for juvenile fish and shellfish. For these reasons
eelgrass meadows have been recognized as “essential
fish habitat” and are widely protected by federal regulations.
In most coastal areas eelgrass is receding due to deteriorating
water quality, siltation and erosion. Many municipalities
have instituted reseeding and replanting programs, and many
have implemented or are considering implementing regulations
to protect eelgrass.
There is a growing body of evidence that shellfish aquaculture
provides many of the same environmental services as eelgrass.
Shellfish remove nitrogen from the environment while shellfish
aquaculture gear provides excellent habitat for juvenile fish
and crustaceans. Shellfish feeding actually improves the water
quality in ways that help eelgrass populations
For a more compreshensive look at the ecological services delivered by shellfish aquaculture
and eelgrass, we have published a pamphlet entitled, "Eelgrass is Great, but Shellfish Aquaculture is Better" that pulls together much of this evidence, making
the case that both shellfish aquaculture and eelgrass restoration
have roles to play in maintaining and restoring the health
of our nation’s estuaries.