Little Pond Shellfish Manager Inspects, Measures & Moves The Oysters

SAM HOUGHTON/ENTERPRISE - Ryan Rezendes shows off young oysters growing at the town's upweller system at Falmouth Harbor. Mr. Rezendes was hired with Town Meeting funds as the Little Pond shellfish manager for Falmouth's oyster project.SAM HOUGHTON/ENTERPRISE - Ryan Rezendes guides mesh bags designed to hold growing oysters in Little Pond through a dock that he built.SAM HOUGHTON/ENTERPRISE - The year-old oysters on Little Pond are helping to clear the water.

Ryan Rezendes, 23, who graduated in the spring from Roger Williams University, is now the Little Pond shellfish manager, or the overseer of roughly two million oysters in Little Pond.

“I can’t complain,” Mr. Rezendes said. He looked south over Little Pond, over approximately 700 black mesh bags that hold the oysters. He stood on a raft that sits in the middle of Little Pond. He built the raft, which he calls his “office,” earlier this summer with the help of an assistant in the Falmouth Harbor Master’s office. It features a narrow channel down its midsection that allows for easy access to ropes holding about 20 oyster cages that each contain anywhere from 2,000 to 500 oysters.

Mr. Rezendes lives in Bristol, Rhode Island, and commutes to work.

He said that he enjoys his new job because of the various elements involved. It requires a knowledge of biology and an understanding of nitrogen mitigation, and there is physical labor involved. He also enjoys the time he spends on Little Pond.

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The town hired Mr. Rezendes in May and he is scheduled to work through November.

He said that the neighbors have been responsive and vocally appreciative of his work. Paul C. Affsa of Narragansett Street has offered the use of his dock. Mr. Rezendes uses it daily. Mr. Affsa has also offered him refreshments and told him that he can see the bottom of the pond for the first time. Others have told him that the smell of the pond has decreased since the oyster project began.

“The oysters,” Mr. Rezendes said, “are doing very well.”

He said that he is excited about October when the Department of Marine and Environmental Services, which Mr. Rezendes works under, will host the first Falmouth Oyster Festival. Mr. Rezendes, department deputy director R. Charles Martinsen and others will offer shucking demonstrations. The details have yet to be ironed out for the event, but Mr. Martinsen said that it will be a celebration of the harvest of some of the town’s oysters from the Little Pond project.

When oysters reach the size of an inch-and-a-half to two inches, Mr. Rezendes helps transfer them to West Falmouth Harbor and other coastal ponds. They will be ready to harvest—with proper licensing—and to eat as early as October.

Mr. Rezendes discovered his passion for oysters and oyster demonstration projects as a sophomore at Roger Williams University. On a whim, he obtained a position on a restoration project offered by the university and said he has been hooked ever since. He received a bachelor’s of science in marine biology, with a minor in aquaculture and marine science, when he graduated this past spring. He is applying to Boston University and Stony Brook University for master’s programs in which he plans to focus on oyster demonstration work. He said that the town has already asked him to come back next year.

Mr. Rezendes motors around Little Pond with the help of a new electric motor clamped to the back of a wide Grumman boat. He also uses a red kayak to inspect oysters in the mesh cages.

His day normally begins at the town’s upwellers at Falmouth Harbor, where there are a half-million oysters. They will soon be moved to Little Pond. His duties at the upwellers are to keep the oysters’ environment clean and to monitor their size.

The town purchased a million-and-a-half oyster seed, or baby oysters, from a hatchery in Maine in May. Each oyster was the size of a grain of sand or a pencil tip and all of them fit into two sock-like bags. Those have been growing in the upwellers since then and some of them have grown to about 12 millimeters.

Mr. Rezendes said that some of the oysters he moved last week have grown a centimeter since then.

At Little Pond, Mr. Rezendes inspects and cleans the mesh cages of algae and other biological build-up. The cages, made of plastic, float. Mr. Rezendes said the surface of the water contains the most nutrients for the oysters, which is the most effective for nitrogen mitigation.

When the oysters are first moved from the upwellers, Mr. Rezendes puts approximately 2,000 oysters into each mesh bag. As they grow, he will sort them by their size and then add them to new mesh cages for better water flow. He said that he transfers each bag approximately twice a month.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said.

On weekends, Mr. Rezendes works for Chessawanock Island Oyster Company, a commercial oyster company in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

When his hands are not plunged into oysters cages or building rafts, he said that he enjoys outdoor and extreme sports. He was a competitive runner in high school and college.

He said he tries to run five to 10 miles a day and competes in road races and marathons in New England, the Mount Washington Road Race being one of them.

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