Sailors for the Sea Publishes Ocean Watch Essay Water Chestnuts Everywhere

Groundwork Somerville contributes the essay detailing its multi-year effort to eradicate the invasive Water Chestnut from the Mystic River in Massachusetts


Newport, Rhode Island - August 10, 2012 - Sailors for the Sea, the only ocean conservation nonprofit focused on the sailing and boating community, today  published Water Chestnuts Everywhere (But Not the Kind you Eat), which focuses on the efforts of the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyWRA) and Groundwork Somerville to remove the Eurasian Water Chestnut from the Mystic River in Massachusetts.

This essay was contributed by Chris Mancini, executive director of Groundwork Somerville, a community non-profit based in Somerville, Mass. that works for the regeneration of the urban environment through programs in Healthy Education, Green Jobs, and Community Engagement. Chris served as the program manager of Sailors for the Sea.

On Saturday, August 4, 2012, MyWRA and Groundwork Somerville made one last summer push in a multi-year effort to eradicate the invasive Water Chestnut from the Mystic River, and removed a record-breaking 806 20-lb. baskets of Water Chestnuts in one morning. Hundreds of volunteers each year since 2010 have managed to remove over 250,000 pounds (equal to 20 acres) of this detrimental invasive plant. Though the efforts should remove another 310,000 pounds by the end of 2012, it is barely enough to keep up with the frantic spread of this invasive plant.

Why the Water Chestnut is So Problematic
The Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) is a poster plant for invasive species. Native to Asia, Europe, and Africa, it was introduced to the Northeast United States in 1897 by a gardener, like many invasive species, as an ornamental plant in Fresh Pond in Cambridge. This floating-leaved plant spreads quickly - a single plant can produce enough seeds to create 200-300 new plants the following year - to create dense, continuous mats on the water surface of lakes, ponds, and slow-moving waters. Such rapid growth of the mats impedes boating, fishing, swimming, and crowds out native plants. They have made parts of the Mystic River barely passage due to the plant's growth from shore to shore. The species provides little to no nutritional value to people or animals, and discourages native wildlife from remaining in their natural habitats where it has taken hold. Additionally, the decomposition of large quantities of water chestnuts can lead to lower dissolved oxygen levels, which can lead to fish kills.

The Eradication Effort Is Ongoing
To make a significant impact, a comprehensive eradication effort to address the rapid growth and spread of water chestnuts requires diligent, ongoing, and uninterrupted work over many years. In the Mystic, these efforts began in 2010, and continue through this year. Even a one-year break in these efforts, however, can nullify all the accomplishments thus far, which is why it is important to continue this work annually to make a major difference on this invasive population over the long term.

The Eurasian Water Chestnut is now found throughout Eastern North America, from Virginia through Northern Quebec, and is just one of many invasive plants that have taken root in our waterways. While an eradication effort can be an overwhelming undertaking, with a few simple cautionary practices, people, and especially boaters, can do much to prevent it from spreading further. Consumers can help by:

  • Contributing to Groundwork Somerville and MyRWA's efforts in Massachusetts
  • Support ocean conservation by making a donation to Sailors for the Sea
  • Thoroughly inspecting and washing your boat after removing it from any body of water and before launching it again, to prevent the spread of species between waterways
  • Starting your own community hand pull events to begin eradication efforts for invasive species that have a strong hold in your area. Contact Groundwork or MyRWA for more info and help in doing this.
  • Planting only native species in your own personal gardens
  • Learning more about the water chestnut and Mystic removal efforts here
  • Draw attention to your local waterways and their challenges through projects like the Blueback Herring River Route

More about the Ocean Watch Essay Program
The Ocean Watch Essay program, a free online resource accessible through the Sailors for the Sea website, provides a constant stream of updated articles on current ocean issues such as ocean acidification, plastics, nonpoint source pollution, and invasive species. Each essay is accompanied by information on how individuals can make a difference in relation to the issue, creating a linkage from knowledge to personal action. Whenever possible, the program also provides information about activities, events, and opportunities, such as lectures, classes, and beach and ocean water clean ups, for people to take action to preserve, protect, and improve the health of the ocean and coastal waters. 

About Groundwork Somerville
Chris Mancini is the Executive Director of Groundwork Somerville, a community non-profit based in Somerville, Mass. that works for the regeneration of the urban environment through programs in Healthy Education, Green Jobs, and Community Engagement. Groundwork Somerville grows and maintains 10 garden and farm sites throughout Somerville, New England's most densely populated city. The gardens and other efforts are spearheaded by the Green Team - a high school job corps and job-training program that connects local students with local partners, as well as municipal, state, and federal agencies (e.g., the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the National Park Service).

About Sailors for the Sea 
Founded in 2004, Sailors for the Sea is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers the boating community to protect and restore our oceans and local waters. For more information or to participate in any of the Sailors for the Sea programs, or to become a member and support the organization, visit