About New England SUPERIOR OYSTERS
Sheyne Branconnier, Cleo Huggins, and Troy Payne are the founding farmers of New England Superior Oysters. They each share a deep love for the ocean, and its many curious creatures, and have a special place in their hearts for oysters due to their ability to keep our oceans thriving while providing a sustainable source of protein. They came together not only to fulfill a demand in the market but also to help maintain the health of the Great Bay Estuary and the communities it impacts.
Cleo and Troy have lived and worked on what is now the New England Superior Oysters farm, on Great Bay, for many years. Cleo’s grandparents grew up in the Dover area and bought the farm in 1929. They were very passionate about historic preservation and were heavily involved in communities centered around preserving historic buildings, landmarks, and other monuments in the area.
When the highway department wanted to build a road through the property, they gave several acres away to the Audubon Society, and the house (built in 1715) was registered as a historical monument to preserve the building and the land. In the 80s, the remaining land was put into conservation for preservation, and over the years, the farm was mostly used for cows to graze and was kept to preserve the farm and nature.
The farmers agreed that they are lucky Cleo’s grandparents had the means to purchase the property and that there was a vision that it needed to be preserved, making it possible for the next generation to preserve it and to make it what it is today – an oyster farm. Cleo, Troy, and Shene consider themselves proud stewards of the land and believe that oyster farming is an excellent way to preserve and revitalize the waters for future generations.
Founded on November 15, 2016, New England Superior Oysters is based in Dover, NH, utilizing the Bellamy River, known for having one of the longest stretches of conservation land on the Bay, as the location of our oyster farm.
We aim to play an integral role in the restoration of a once flourishing existence of wild oyster reefs in New Hampshire. We plan to make significant improvements to the impressive water quality that exists in Southern New Hampshire, which has consistently been rated high and touts some of the cleanest beaches in the country over the years.
History of the NH Great Bay Oysters
The oysters in New Hampshire's Great Bay have been a valued resource throughout the history of humankind's presence in the area. Historically, oyster reefs populated over 1,000 acres throughout the Great Bay estuary. However, due to unregulated and detrimental harvesting methods, unhindered pollution, and disease, wild oyster reefs have been reduced to less than 10% of their historic levels.
Restoration efforts are currently underway, both locally and globally, but they require a multi-faceted approach and involvement from scientists, farmers, and members of the community in order to succeed. Without successful restoration of native oyster populations around the world - of which more than 99% are considered functionally extinct –- we lose all of the ecosystem benefits that oysters provide.
Bringing Awareness to Great Bay
One of the most interesting things we’ve learned through oyster farming is how bad of shape the water is in, and how big of a lack of awareness there is in the community about how oysters can help restore the bay. One of our founders, Sheyne, remembers well the river he grew up near and how much it has changed just in his lifetime. The Great Bay Estuary is a pristine environment that many people don’t know exists. Our goal is to encourage and inspire people to pay attention to it and recognize it as the invaluable resource it is.
More than 50 local communities throughout New Hampshire and Maine utilize the 1,023 square mile Great Bay watershed in some capacity, making it truly invaluable.
We strive to bring awareness to the environment and its importance –- not just the source of where our oysters come from, but also how this unique estuary plays a vital role in the health of ecosystems ranging from the estuary to offshore fisheries. We will do what we can to maintain a state of consciousness and vigilance about this truly priceless resource. We hope to help educate people in the area to understand what we are doing and how it is helping now, and long-term.
We believe that oysters are really the bees to the ocean. They play an important role in keeping local waterways healthy, vibrant, and thriving. By developing an oyster farm in Great Bay, New England Superior Oyster hopes to have a positive impact on the environment that supports our local communities.
Environment, Sustainability & Restoration
Oysters are a low-maintenance low maintenance organism to farm. They require no feed inputs and instead feed on naturally occurring phytoplankton and algae in the water. By simply feeding, they are even able to prevent harmful algal blooms that are becoming more prevalent due to fertilizer runoff. As an oyster feeds, it filters water and picks out food particles while depositing suspended sediments. This action is able to drastically improve water quality.
One adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day!
Oysters grow by creating a calcium carbonate shell. As they build their shells, they are sequestering carbon and ultimately removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; - so really, oysters are fighting global climate change!
Oyster farming, unlike some other types of farming, is an environmentally friendly process by nature. The more oysters that are in local waters, the healthier those water bodies and the surrounding environments become. Not only is oyster farming a minimal-impact minimal impact operation but oysters are considered a foundation species - this means that they facilitate the health of many other organisms. Oyster reefs provide a three-dimensional structure that allows juvenile fish to find reprieve from potential predators. Everything from juvenile lobsters to stripers has been documented to use oyster reefs as vital habitats, especially during their reproductive stages.
New England Superior Oysters is dedicated to becoming a key contributor to the oyster restoration efforts in Southern Coastal New Hampshire. A meta-analysis study conducted in 2012 found that over 99% of oyster reefs around the world are considered functionally extinct; - they no longer are able to provide the benefits that they were once associated with.
While oyster reefs are unfortunately one of the most endangered habitats worldwide, their mere existence relates directly to an abundant fish population and cleaner waters. We are focused on building innovative business solutions to get more oysters back in the water, as their existence is crucial to the health of our oceans and also offers a sustainable renewable resource.
Eating oysters as a source of protein is a great choice! Your actions are not only sustainable, but they provide benefits to the local environment while also fighting climate change.
Oyster Recycling Opportunities
At New England Superior Oyster, we believe in oyster shell recycling as it provides a suitable substrate for wild oysters to grow on. We donate our time to a local oyster shell recycling program. Empty oyster shells are taken from participating restaurants, and, instead of being dumped into a landfill, they are brought to the N.H. Agricultural Experiment Station's (UNH), Kingman Farm, where they are stored until they can be used for restoration efforts throughout the Great Bay system.
Ask your local restaurant if they are participating in an oyster recycling program. And, if you would like to get more involved locally in the state of NH you may also want to reach out to PREP (Piscataqua Region Estuarine Partnership) to become a steward of the bay.