In June of 2008 the Stonington Shellfish Commission, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and The Lattner Family Foundation, initiated a pilot project in the waters of Little Narragansett Bay aimed at enhancing the bay ecosystem scallop population. Stonington has historically been home to a thriving population of bay scallops, but since the late 1990s scallops have decreased in abundance to the point where even the most adept scalloper has had a hard time bringing home an appetizer course, never mind dinner.

Reasons for the decrease in scallop population levels are unknown, but since the mid-1990s there has been a near total loss of eelgrass in the Little Narragansett Bay ecosystem, an increase in nuisance algae species, and possibly changed circulation patterns after Sandy Point was breached and "sliced" into two sections, though this has reconnected over time. These of course could be coincidental to the reduction of scallops as there are no research data that can be used to show any cause and effect. The bottom line however, is that scallops are a rare commodity in Little Narragansett Bay.

Given that the bay scallop has been an historically important shellfish in town waters, and that shellfish populations are considered important elements of healthy shallow-water coastal systems, the Stonington Shellfish Commission, in keeping with it's goal to "sustain and improve shellfish resources and the ecosystems they are a part of" (Shellfish Resource Management Plan, 2005), has developed and implemented a scallop enhancement project in the waters of Little Narragansett Bay.

While the ultimate goal of the Commission is to see the return of a healthy, viable population of bay scallops in Little Narragansett Bay , this particular project element is being implemented to aid the Commission, with the help of its partners, to better understand the reproductive potential of the bay ecosystem. The Commission feels that if it can promote bay scallop spawning events in Little Narragansett Bay, then follow the success, or lack of thereof, of spat settlement and growth towards adulthood, it can better gauge the potential for Little Narragansett Bay to sustain bay scallops over the long term. This information is vital to determining what resources need to be marshaled to foster a resurgence of bay scallops in the Little Narragansett Bay ecosystem, and the degree of success, if any, that might be achieved by such an attempt.

In the undesirable event that results suggest that Little Narragansett Bay cannot sustain a viable population of bay scallops, the information may be useful in helping to determine what ecosystem parameters need to change in order to improve conditions in a way that would enhance the probability of success.

This effort is an experiment, both in scallop population ecology in Stonington waters, and in developing new partnerships. We thank The Nature Conservancy and NOAA Community-based Restoration Programs for guidance in project development, the Lattner Family Foundation for funding, Connecticut Cultured Oysters for assistance in gear development and manufacturing, Stonington Yacht Club for use of dock space, students and teachers at Pine Point School and Stonington High School for assistance in building gear, deploying gear and all the field work efforts. None of this would be possible without the engagement and enthusiasm of our partners.