A $75,000 grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will enable Connecticut Sea Grant to use geographic information system technology to show what parts of Long Island Sound can best support the growth of shellfish. Geopgraphic information system technology takes layers of information and data and converts them into maps and three dimensional scenes.

Work on the project is just getting underway. A report that identifies the best areas for shellfish bed restoration will be released in two years.

Tessa Getchis, an aquaculture extension specialist with Connecticut Sea Grant, said that while there are shellfishing operations along the entire length of the state’s coast, the heaviest concentration is in the coastal area between New Haven and Westport. Currently, about 20 percent of Connecticut’s part of Long Island Sound are already designated for commercial or recreational shellfishing, mainly clams and oysters.

“This (project) will put restoration practitioners in a position to get their projects funded,” Getchis said. “We also want to provide funding agencies the confidence that they are funding high priority, state-supported efforts. We’re trying to make the best possible use of the Sound.”

The area from which shellfish are harvested from the Sound has increased slightly in recent years, she said, “but it is nowhere near historically high levels.”

Part of the reason for that increase is that shellfish companies are increasing using what Getchis calls “vertical methods,” where clams and oysters are grown in cages or bags that occupy the space between the surface of the Sound and the seabed.