Over the next four years, the Support Oyster Aquaculture & Restoration program (SOAR) will receive an additional $6.3 million in funding to rebuild oyster reefs in New Hampshire’s Great Bay estuary. The oysters will not only help clean the waters of the estuary by removing excess nitrogen and other pollutants, they will help build a robust aquaculture industry after 90 percent of the bay’s wild oysters were depleted by pollution, disease, and harvest.
The SOAR program—a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Oceanic and the Atmospheric Administration and Department of Agriculture—will also buy and repurpose up to 2.5 million farmed oysters to rebuild 30 acres of reefs in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California, and Washington.
SOAR was launched in 2019 and expanded in 2020 to help shellfish farmers during the COVID crisis. In its first two years, the program redirected 3.5 million farm-raised oysters to 25 locations, encompassing 40 acres of oyster reefs.