Monday, December 7, 2015

What’s in the FLUPSY?: A new tool for aquaculture education

By Robbie Hudson, Save The Bay Educator

In 1970, Save The Bay was created with a vision for protecting Narragansett Bay. In 1986, we launched our education program, recognizing that future generations would be critical to achieving that original vision, and with the goal of providing the best hands-on marine science instruction available. In the mid-90s, our vision expanded to include restoration of the Bay habitats.

Today, Save The Bay has a new tool that speaks to all three rungs of our organization: habitat restoration, water quality improvement and the building of stewards of Narragansett Bay. We have installed and now operate a Floating Upweller System (FLUPSY) at the Bay Center dock to grow shellfish. FLUPSY is a controlled nursery system that force-feeds infant shellfish (seed) by constantly moving water past them as they sit in a holding tank. The shellfish grow quickly and enjoy a higher survival rate than in the wild because they are continuously eating and growing while protected from such predators as crabs, lobsters and fish. The system makes it possible to grow out hundreds of thousands of shellfish at a time. 

Once the shellfish reach a predetermined size (depending upon the species), they can be deployed at restoration sites in Bay and coastal waters. Bivalve shellfish, such as ribbed mussels and oysters, are great at filtering water and removing unwanted nutrients out of the water column. They strengthen the shoreline by preventing erosion, an increasingly challenging issue due to increasing storm intensity and sea level rise from climate change. And, they can function as brood stock that will contribute to further generations of their species. 

The FLUPSY allows Save The Bay and our partner schools and organizations to study the possibility of increasing shellfish populations in Narragansett Bay, while adding new, exciting content to our K-12 marine science education program. Aquaculture education programs introduce students to ecology, shellfish biology, the shellfish industry and role of aquaculture in Bay management. With an upweller system, they can explore such activities as water quality monitoring, shellfish life cycles, habitat restoration and animal husbandry.

Our middle- and high-school BayCampers have experienced the upweller while learning about shellfish biology, the importance of water quality to marine life and how to test for various scientific parameters. College interns have been assisting in weekly data collection, and maintenance of the equipment. The education and experience these students acquire from this program is helping create our future scientists.

Shellfish have and will always be an important part of Southeastern New England culture and can play a crucial role in keeping Rhode Island waters healthy. Utilizing our knowledge and resources, Save The Bay will continue to find ways to preserve our waters while educating students of all ages about what we can do to protect and restore Narragansett Bay.

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