Monday, December 20, 2010

Congratulations Hannah! MOP Volunteer going to Barnard College

Congratulations to Gann Academy Senior Hannah Dale, who will be matriculating at Barnard College next year. Hannah has been active in the Oyster Project since the early days. She wrote our first successful grant application to the New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund and has volunteered at various events measuring oysters and collecting petition signatures. 

According to Wikipedia, Barnard College is an affiliate of Columbia University, one of the original seven sisters, and has a terrific reputation. The College has an illustrious list of Alumnae including Jeane Kirkpatrick- the first female US representative to the United Nations, anthropologist Margaret Mead and lifestyle maven Martha Stewart. But the list goes on… Comedienne Joan Rivers, Choreographer Twyla Tharp, NPR’s Susan Stanberg, actress Zuzanna  Szadkowsky who plays Dorota on Gossip Girl. Barnard must be doing something right as these are just a few of the prominent names who caught my attention. In popular culture, the television show Mad Men includes the character Rachel Menken who is a Barnard College Graduate.

An interesting aside is that in 1960 the school attracted national attention when Barnard Students began wearing Bermuda shorts to classes at Columbia. How times change!

Hannah also is a volunteer at the New England Aquarium.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thank You Visit to Constellation Energy

Earlier this week we stopped in to visit the Boston Office of Constellation Energy who granted MOP $5000 in an EcoStar Grant earlier this year.  We met with Brandon Fong who posed for this photo.

Next week we are meeting with the National Park Service who help oversee the Harbor Islands for an informational meeting. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Beer Tasting February 16th- Great Writeup on NewYork Oyster Restoration- We are behind!

MOP will be sponsoring a beer tasting on February 16 at the Harpoon Brewery at 306 Northern Avenue in Boston from 5:30-7:00 pm. There is a suggested donation of $10 per person. We also will have Island Creek oysters for $1 each. To sign up go to our MOP/Harpoon beer tasting event page on Facebook.      For directions to the Brewery go to this map link. 

We were pleased to come across a terrific document updating the status of oyster restoration in the Hudson River Estuary.  Published by the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program it provides an excellent overview of the multiple restoration programs going on in that Watershed.  It also highlights many of the benefits of a program. To read it, click on this link to NYNJ Oyster Issue.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Visit Mass Oyster Christmas Tree at Max and Dylan's Restaurant

As part of the Charlestown Holiday Stroll, non-profits are placing trees at various retail establishments for viewing on December 4. Ours is at the popular Max and Dylan's Restaurant on Charlestown's City Square.

The tree is covered in oyster ornaments hand-drilled by Charlestown craftsperson extraordinaire- Bette Task.

People on the stroll can visit the trees and vote on their favorites. The day will be capped with a tree lighting in City Square that evening. To paraphrase a saying about former Boston Mayor Curley vote early and often.

The restaurant is offering 25% off dinner entrees so it is an ideal spot to end your stroll with a delicious meal .

If you are agonizing about your holiday tree, you can make it hassle free by bringing it home to impress your mother-in-law for $200.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

International Shellfish Restoration Conference Rocks---- $1000 Grant from Siemens Caring Hands Foundation

Earlier this week MOP made a presentation on our efforts to restore oysters at the International Conference on Shellfish Restoration.  It was fascinating for several reasons. First, the variety of initiatives was amazing. They included state run efforts in the Carolinas and non-profit shell recycling initiatives. The geographic reach extended from the Audobon Society’s work on Cape Cod to the other side of the Globe in Pakistan.

Second, we were surprised to see that we knew many people and they were aware of MOP’s work. One person whose name was mentioned favorably in several contexts was Island Creek Oysters founder Skip Bennet. The Island Creek Foundation has been actively supporting an exciting initiative to grow shellfish in Tanzania.  How he found time for this as well as opening the Island Creek Oyster Bar  is beyond me!

Third, we learned a great deal- Two presentations stand out.

Professor Lisa Kellogg of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies  has done excellent work on oysters and nitrogen removal. Nitrogen is a major pollutant in human waste that is linked to harmful algae blooms. My cryptic notes indicate that areas with oysters are 5-8 x more effective at nitrogen removal and that a one acre oyster reef process 1.9 pounds more of nitrogen than areas without oysters. When factoring in nitrogen sequestration in the shells, it could be much more.

Professor Kellogg also presented data on how oyster reefs add to the animal life and it can be more than 10X greater on an oyster reef. This confirms our observations that oyster reefs serve as hosts to a variety of desirable species including shrimp, small fisth, crabs, eels and lobsters. These small fish in turn draw the larger fish who feed on them.

Professor Mark Green of St. Joseph’s College in Maine  provided some valuable insights on the acidity of the silt-water interface in harbor bottoms. His team measured several areas including Boston Harbor. Looking at the pH measure of acidity it can be below the 7.6 level which is the minimum for oysters to form more shell. Interestingly the addition of oyster shell in the silt can raise it from 7.1 to 7.8. So oysters can impact their environment favorably.

Professor Green’s information is interesting when we think of MOP’s work as we have seen some interesting outcomes in the growth of our oysters. The oysters in cages suspended in the water column grew best. The cages on the bottom grew slower with those closest to silted areas having the slowest growth. Could it be acidity related? We don’t know. But we are designing experiments to find out.

The Siemens Caring Hands Foundation Grants MOP $1000

We were happy to learn that a foundation affiliated with the global conglomerate has made a grant to Siemens. The company is a leader in medical technology, industrial automation and renewable energy including windpower. To learn more about the many programs funded by the organization you can click on Siemens Caring Hands Foundation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Large Chesapeake Oyster- International Shellfish Restoration Conference- Laptop Tour of the Mystic River

Old Oyster Offers Hope for Species in Chesapeake

Mike Deal shows off the unusually large oyster that he pulled out of the Rappahannock River. (Pamela A. D'angelo)

A large oyster nine inch oyster that Mike Deal, above, pulled out of the Rappahannock River dwarfed the three- to four-inchers all around it. Deal said it was the largest oyster he had seen in his 30 years as a waterman.

Oysters are struggling to survive in the Chesapeake Bay's polluted waters and tributaries such as the Rappahannock, where oyster diseases and a history of over-harvesting have depleted wild stocks to 1 percent of what they were a century ago. As a result, larger and older oysters are rare.
Jim Wesson, who heads the Conservation and Replenishment Department of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, said it was a feat for a wild oyster to survive and grow this large in "this day and time." Russell Burke, a marine conservation biologist who studies oysters, estimated this mollusk's age at seven to nine years. "I believe that this Rappahannock oyster may be the largest natural oyster pulled from the Rappahannock River since before MSX [a parasitic disease] ravaged the bay in the early 1960s," he said. "Hopefully this is the beginning of a wonderful new trend."

The giant oyster was on display at the Urbanna Oyster Festival this month and is getting a new home on a sanctuary reef in Virginia. (The author of this posting is relieved that it was not eaten!)

The importance of this oyster is that it has some type of resistance to MSX a disease that invades the digestive system and effectively starves the oyster much like a tapeworm. MSX usually hits oysters hard in their third and fourth years of life. So a real old one like this offers hope for the future. We do not know if the oysters in Boston harbor will be plagued by this pathogen. Only time will tell.

As part of our ongoing effort to raise awareness of oysters as a natural approach to mitigating pollution from surface run-off and other sources we are presenting at  the International conference on Shellfish Restoration in Charleston  South Carolina on November 18th. We hope to have our slides up on shortly thereafter. We are attracting national interest.

Mystic River View In A Nutshell
There were once enormous oyster reefs on the Mystic River that were so large that they obstructed shipping. While those oyster days and the days of Mystic River shipbuilders have long since passed. The surprising beauty of the beleaguered waterway remains. Check out this time-lapse video  as a reminder.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore Square is a Hit

The Massachusetts Oyster Project has been blessed with a strong working relationship with the team at Island Creek Oysters as they have provided support, guidance and expertise as well as seed oysters.

Skip and his colleagues are demonstrating their versatility by integrating vertically into the restaurant business. Their first foray is the Island Creek Oyster Bar located in the Hotel Commonwealth  at
500 Commonwealth Ave
in Boston. The
Kenmore Square
location guarantees healthy foot traffic.

Incoming email reviews have been streaming into MOP and they are universally positive with many raves.

ICOB is a collaboration of oyster farmer (Skip Bennett), chef (Jeremy Sewall) and  restaurateur (Garrett Harker); Taking inspiration from the Island Creek Oyster farm in Duxbury, the restaurant was designed by restaurant architect Peter Bentel of New York. One of the most striking visual elements of the interior is giant Gabion cages filled with tens of thousands of Island Creek oyster shells. The centerpiece of the room is a 25 seat bar that is divided by a daily-changing grand raw bar display that features an extensive list of 12-18 oysters, as well as lobsters, clams, shrimp and other specialties. In addition to extensive seafood offerings, the menu also features selections "from the land" for our non-seafood eating friends.

To make a reservation through opentable click on this open-table
 link or call  617 532 5300

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Volunteers Needed November 7 for Placing Oysters-- Data-- Beer!

Volunteers needed for oyster placement on the afternoon of November 7th!

We have managed through our logistics and have scheduled Sunday November 7 for placing our oysters. We will meet at the Constitution Marina in Charlestown and will need volunteers for physically moving the oysters and for measurement. Please email me at if you can make it. If you are a diver and not in contact with Mat, please respond to me and I will put you in touch with him. Refreshments, gloves, souvenir t-shirts and tools will be provided.  We also send a special Thank you to Constellation Energy for providing a $5000 grant toward this placement.

Data from successful Dorchester Oyster Pilot posted on

We posted a PowerPoint   with the results of a pilot study run at Dorchester Yacht Club in Malibu Bay. This location is not far from the landmark artistically painted Gas Tank and adjacent to the South East Expressway. Below is one of the more important slides illustrating that the average oyster length grew from 43 millimeters to 74 millimeters.  Click  PowerPoint to pull it up.  We will be presenting this and other information at the International Conference on Shellfish Restoration in Charleston South Carolina in November and the Northeast Aquaculture Conference in Plymouth Mass in December. 

Name the MOP Holiday Tree-

Charlestown’s businesses are hosting trees from various non-profits to raise awareness of the plethora of good works going on in the town. The Mass Oyster Project’s tree will be at Max & Dylan’s Restaurant which is located at the intersection of
Chelsea Street
New Rutherford Avenue
. Our tree will be decorated in mock pearls and oyster shells.  But what do we name it? Is there a play on words involving the words oyster, pearl, mollusk or shell? HELP!

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

We continue to network with various environmental groups seeking both political support and opportunities to work together. We are excited about an upcoming meeting with the Nature Conservancy as they have been active in oyster restoration in other areas of the country.  We also will be attending the Boston Harbor Sea Level Rise Forum on November 9th & 10th. The Forum is free and open to the public, reservations required.  To register, please click on the links below:

Web Development Support needed.

Our web-site could use a few updates including adding an online petition page and links to our data.  A volunteer who has the skills and a few hours would get the hero treatment.

You asked for it. You got it! More Beer!

We will be hosting a tasting at the Harpoon Brewery in the next few months. We are seeking to nail down a date in the near term.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mass Oyster Project in New York, MOP Diver in the Aquarium, Oysters Secured

The photo below is of Queens,NY residents and long-time Mass Oyster Project supporters Greg and Amy Barry who stood before the New York skyline wearing Mass Oyster hats. The tall spire in the background is the Chrysler Building- perhaps New York's finest skyscraper.

The twosome want to start an oyster garden where they keep their boat. We have connected them with NYNJ Baykeepers to get involved. New York rules regarding individual oyster gardening are more liberal than those in conservative Massachusetts.

If you happen to be at the New England Aquarium on October 30th. Keep an eye out for MOP diver Jonathan Cutone who will be taking a dip in the big tank, feeding the moray eel and patting the sharks. After fending off lobsters and spider crabs on oyster dives in Boston Harbor he should be well-prepared.

We have locked in 80,000 oysters for placement in early November. Details will be forthcoming.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mass Oyster Reaching the MidWest

Mass Oyster Project volunteer Laura Olivier was spotted and photographed in the Mid-West beneath St. Louis's gateway arch. Laura was a terrific help as we measured oysters. She also did some wonderful research on oysters in Colonial Boston.

Did you know that the crowd through oysters shells at the Boston Massacre?
Did you know that an oysterman was stabbed in the shoulder by a British officer's cutlass?

You do now thanks to Laura.

Oysters Make the Duck Tour

Today, we dropped off our photo station at Charlestown's Good Shepherd School as they are studying the ocean. The GSS is an awesome, relatively new preschool with terrific leadership. The students can pose for pictures and we are collecting signatures for our petition to create a pilot project in Fort Point Channel. Here is a link to the Friends of Fort Poiint Channel.

Beth, the Director of the School told us that on a recent SuperDuck tour they mentioned the Oyster Project on her tour in the context of the MWRA's terrific Boston Harbor clean-up. If MOP is getting into the vernacular of Boston we are going places. Will cartoonist Harry Fig draw us next?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another sign of Boston Harbor's Resurgence- Oyster catchers

One of the fun and exciting parts of being involved with the Harbor is watching its comeback as new species return. This year we saw the return of Mackerel, which were last seen here decades ago. There also was a new species that feeds on jelly fish. And the ongoing success of the Oystercatchers.

Three oyster catchers feeding at the harbor's edge.

Original uncropped photo

This year three fledglings were successfully hatched in Winthrop and possibly more on Snake Island according to friend of MOP- Sue Corona. Oystercatchers are wading birds about 19 inches long that feed on marine invertebrates including mollusks. The species is not officially endangered, but their population is considered to be low. Let us hope that by restoring oyster reefs to Boston Harbor that we can create new food sources for them as over 100 species can live in an oyster reef.  To learn more you can visit Wikipedia listing for oysters.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Great Weekend of Events

Many "thank yous" to the team for turning up at the Boston Local Food Festival and the Belle Isle Marsh Festival this past weekend. We met with hundreds of people;tgetting out our message about oysters naturally cleaning the water and adding to biodiversity. Hannah Dale was fearless as our crab-wrangler in the touch tank. It was a male green crab. Anamarija Frankic of the Green Boston Harbor Project also provided support.

The active crowd on the banks of Fort Point Channel stood in stark contrast to the blank slate of the water surface. 160 people signed our petition to begin a pilot oyster restoration project in Fort Point Channel.

On Friday we removed our oysters from the Dorchester Yacht Club per the request of the Division of Marine Fisheries. Remarkably the average length grew 10% in September and the weight even more so. We will be using data from the placement at Scientific Presentations this fall. Over 90% of that population is now at a size which they are capable of reproduction. The Ibutton containing the temperature data is being sent for download by our scientific team.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Busy Weekend--- Fort Point Channel--Belle Isle Marsh-- Volunteers Welcome

We are headed into a busy weekend and we could use one or two volunteers at two fun events.

The Boston Local Food Festival will take place this Saturday from 11:00 am until 5:00 PM at Boston's Fort Point Channel outside the Boston Children's Museum. We will have a table with an oyster touch tank information on the organization, petitions to push regulatory authorities to move into Fort Point Channel and a chance to get photographed as an oyster or lobster. (That holiday card is approaching quickly.)

We also will have hats and our new 2010 limited edition t-shirts available for sale.

Then on Sunday October 3, we will be at the Friends of the Belle Isle Marsh Fall Festival from 1:00-3:00. The Marsh is beautiful and surprisingly close to Boston. They have hay rides, pumpkin decorating, other activities and a beautiful place to go for an invigorating walk. We will have the same exhibits here as at the Food Festival.

If you are looking to get outside for fun- come join us. Or volunteer with MOP for an hour or two.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Taller Oyster Reefs Improve Survival and Reproduction

While on vacation, I came across this research published in 2009 that was new to me and very interesting.  A five-year study of oyster-restoration techniques in Chesapeake Bay shows that taller reefs worked better in oyster restoration efforts.

A study conducted by Virginia Institute of Marine Science graduate students David Schulte, Russ Burke, and professor Rom Lipcius appeared in the July 30th issue of Science Express. Link to study.  Oysters showed greater abundance and growth on reefs built to stand 10-18 inches above the seafloor with reefs that rise only 3-5 inches.

The US Army Corps of Engineers constructed the reefs in 2004 by placing old oyster shells in 9 discrete sets of reefs covering more than 90 acres in the Great Wicomico River, a small Chesapeake Bay tributary, which is permanently closed to oyster harvesting.

In the area used in this study there is a natural oyster set meaning that local oysters reproduce and release young oyster spat. The spat then attach to suitable substrates that usually contain calcium. A very attractive substrate material is oyster shell, but other calcium containing material including concrete cinderblocks will work as well. On follow-up the taller reefs had four times as many oysters as the shorter reefs, and the oysters on the taller reefs were growing faster than those growing closer to the bottom.

The taller reef areas held the highest densities of oysters ever recorded on a restored oyster reef in the Bay with more than 1,000 oysters per square meter. Pre-restoration surveys of the study area recorded fewer than 2 oysters per square meter. Those numbers are important as the oysters in one square meter could filter 30,000 gallons of water per day or 900,000 gallons per month. (How many square meters are there in 90 acres?- Wow!)

Taller reefs may be more successful because the oysters may receive more water flow delivering nutrients and the oysters may be protected from sedimentation.

The taller reefs have persisted and grown for nearly five years, indicating that the threshold for long term success may have been achieved. And they are approaching the form of a natural unharvested reef that once was prevalent throughout the Bay. Harvesting has reduced oyster abundance around the world to less than 1% of its original presence.

At the Massachusetts Oyster Project we have not yet laid down oyster shell to build up reef structure for oysters. We have not pursued this for two reasons. First, we have been focused on proving out that oysters can survive and grow in Boston Harbor estuaries. (There was considerable skepticism about this when we began this oyster restoration program.) And second, we have not yet devoted the time to figuring out the labyrinth of regulations for placing oyster shell on the bottom. However, we do have a volunteer exploring this and hope to commence a program like this in the next few years. We are hoping to have some reproduction this year and are eagerly watching for signs of it.
Our results also indicate that oysters that are a bit higher up and in the current seem to do better than those on the bottom. We also have learned the hard way about the dangers and difficulties of sedimentation, which greatly affected the class of 2008.

Let us hope that this and other successes will encourage the Army Corps of Engineers and other government bodies to consider funding similar programs in Massachusetts waters. Boston Harbor has improved dramatically over the past 20 years and we would welcome additional shoulders at the wheel working to restore this keystone species.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oyster Glue Identified-Characterized

Researchers at Perdue University and the University of South Carolina have identified and characterized the glue that holds an oyster reef together.

Image from NSF website.
Oysters use a hard calcium carbonate cement that is somewhat similar to the hard shell material. If you have pried these babies apart you know it can be very strong. In comparison other species such as the mussel use a soft elastic material.

Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the chemical formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rock in all parts of the world, and is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, pearls, and eggshells. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime. It is commonly used medicinally as a calcium supplement or as an antacid.

The potential of the beneficial impacts of oysters and their calcium carbonate should not be ignored as a tool for fighting ocean acidification. In 1989, a researcher, Ken Simmons, introduced CaCO3 into the Whetstone Brook in Massachusetts.  His hope was that the calcium carbonate would counter the acid in the stream from acid rain and save the trout that had ceased to spawn. His experiment was a success. This shows that CaCO3 can be added to neutralize the effects of acid rain in river ecosystems.  Since the 1970s, such liming has been practiced on a large scale in Sweden to mitigate acidification and several thousand lakes and streams are limed repeatedly. Is it not logical step to think that the presence of large amounts of oyster shell could have a similar impact on a tidal estuary?

To see the original article on the NSF website you can click here. Oyster Cement Characterization Article.

The researchers presented their findings at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston,  and will publish their results in the Sept. 15, 2010, issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. To learn more  go to glue abstract at The Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

MOP Fashions Around the World- Oyster Project Clad Supporter Spotted in Valencia Spain

In late August, this little fellow was spotted in the wonderfully designed museum complex in Valencia Spain. You can see two of Calatrava's architectural gems in the background.

Wearing Mass Oyster Project clothing helps our oyster restoration effort in two ways. First, it helps to raise awareness of our groundbreaking work. You would be amazed at how people are interested in oysters and making the Harbor cleaner! Second profits help fund the purchase of oysters and other materials. An added benefit is that it makes the wearer look stylish.

We have hats ($14) and windbreakers ($25) in stock.

We will be ordering t-shirts for sale at Fall events shortly.  To order send an email to

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Personal Oyster Restoration Effort on the Chesapeake Bay

Our web-site has recieved numerous hits referred from a posting on, a boating web-site.  There is a great story there about a person's effort to restore some oyster coastline in the Chesapeake Bay using shell from a restaurant. It is an impressive effort by one person.

By placing shell they are giving a substrate for the floating infant oysters to settle on.  In that Bay they have an advantage in that the oysters have a natural set in which the existing population reproduces and the young are floating throughout the bay. We don't yet have that in Boston Harbor, so it would not work here. But hopefully in the not-too-distant future we will have some reproduction. In the meantime one of our volunteers, Ben is exploring how we might get approvals to put down shell in the harbor. Working through the regulatory process is not simple, however we do have serveral sources of oyster shell when that situation arrives.

Here is a link to the site.   Oyster shell recycling for restoration

Congratulations Anamarija Frankic of UMass Boston

Many of you may recall meeting a smart, active lady at our oyster placement events. She is Anamarija Frankic, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental, Earth, and Ocean Sciences at UMass Boston. She and her department have been very helpful to MOP as we try to figure out the myriad of questions associated with a groundbreaking restoration effort.
Anamarija explaining oyster biology to an area high school student and Mass Oyster volunteer

EPA New England recently announced the selection of University of Massachusetts Boston for its Urban Waters/Mystic River UniversityCollaborative. The EPA is developing collaborative relationships in support of its urban waters/Mystic River Watershed Initiative, beach and nonpoint source programs. Given Anamarija's intimacy with the harbor and the Mystic River this looks like a great selection.

Anamarija has worked hard for her students and the health of the harbor. She also runs the Green Boston Harbor Project. To learn more about that initiative click here Green Boston Harbor Project

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Troubling times in NJ oyster restoration effort

It appears that the State of New Jersey has thrown a monkey wrench into the ongoing oyster restoration effort of the NJ Baykeepers group. This organization has been active for several years with numerous initiatives and MOP has drawn on their expertise.

The State of NJ has ordered them to remove their oysters from Raritan Bay. The State is saying that the FDA views this as a threat to the oyster industry as illegally harvested oysters from polluted waters could get in the food chain.

We view this as sad and unfortunate. Doesn't NJ license all oyster harvesters? And don't restaurants purchase their oysters from reputable dealers? There are all kinds of things that can be pulled out of the ocean's polluted waters that should not be eaten. In Massachusetts we have steamer clams in polluted Marshes. Are unsafe ones winding up in the food system? No because our State's Division of Marine Fisheries has posted areas, supervises the industry, and has a plant to detoxify steamer clams that are harvested from questionable waters. Doesn't it seem odd that the FDA is focusing on this when last year hundreds of people were sick from toxic peanut butter?

Fortunately, New York does not appear to be following New Jersey's path. To learn more, you can read the article in the New York Times below.

New York Times Restoration Article

August Oyster Growth Update

It has been an exciting time for the Oyster Project. Mortality has been very low in the oysters we placed in cages last fall and, in some cases we have seen substantial growth. Our volunteer divers and measurers have had some excitement including our first 4 inch long oyster! Size matters because reproducing size is considered to be 3 inches. So if we can get them to that size, then there is hope for a reproductive event when the water gets warm enough. Interestingly, once the oysters get to be around that 3 inch size the growth tends to shift more to thickness. It is fascinating to watch.

We have been sharing data with our regulators at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. So, we are beginning to generate data indicating the oysters can survive and grow in the harbor.

Two of our larger oysters. The left is more the classic tear drop shape.

On the other hand, we have not yet shown reproduction, although we placed an impressive specially designed device for young oysters to settle on should they be created. (Thank you Dave!) And we did see extensive predation of our loose oysters by starfish and crabs. (They like eating oysters too!) This will need to be considered as we seek to establish a self-sustaining population.

Here is Dave with the apparatus. and the medicine ball like floats that support it. In the lower right of the photo you can see the "cages" we place oysters in on the bottom.
Overall, we are pleased with the progress from an oyster front and we are learning a lot! How to place the oysters, methodologies for measurement, apparatus that can be used, etc.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Its not one Boston Harbor... but a salad of MicroConditions

When we look at Boston Harbor from a distance it looks like a single blue mass. But as we get to know it better, it becomes apparent how much one area varies from another-even if the two spots are seemingly close together.

When we check on our oysters these differences become striking. Here is a photo of some milk crates that hold a few oysters. They were first coated with barnacles. And then a matt of mussels.

Yet here is another crate from 100 feet away with volunteers David Fields and Laura Olivier. There are a few mussels, but nothing like on the crates above.

And here are some cages that are 200 yards away. There is no growth on them at all.

We have also seen cages coated with jellied masses that the dock hands refer to as sea onions. So we are learning that there is much more going on than meets the eye. There can be silt, rock or sand floor, salty or brackish water and differing currents. Fortunately, we are seeing that the oyster is fairly versatile and our survival data for oysters in cages is very good. Clearly the oysters are good as the loose ones seem to attract a fair number of starfish and crabs seeking to dine on them.

As we gain experience we are beginning to understand these underwater microclimates a bit better and seeking to incorporate this knowledge as we seek to restore the oyster to its historic home.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Example of live European Oyster from Boston Harbor

Professor Anamarija Frankic of UMass Boston forwarded these photos of a live European Oyster that she found it on the Quincy side of Moon Island in July.

The European Oyster (ostrea edulis) tends to live in deeper water than the Eastern Oyster that we are working to restore.

The European oyster was imported to Maine in the 1950s for aquaculture. We have heard that they were accidentally released from a Massachusetts North Shore aquaculture facility when the wrong valve was mistakenly opened. A 1997 survey revealed dense concentrations of O. edulis in Salem Harbor, Danvers River, and Manchester Bay (Salem Sound). Lower densities were observed north to Cape Ann and south to Boston Harbor. They continue to be harvested in Casco Bay, Maine. In the Northeast, O. edulis appears to occupy a different niche than the native oyster population, and it is yet to be determined if there are ecological impacts.

We have seen O. edulis shells throughout the harbor and our divers had even found one at the mouth of the Charles River. Below is a picture of one Mat has found on a May dive.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Raising Oysters on Governor's Island in New York Harbor

MOP member Ben forwarded this link to NY Times article about students raising oysters on Governor's Island in New York Harbor. NY Governors Island Oysters

The New Yorkers are a bit ahead of MOP in that they have been able to get an upweller in the water to raise oysters, while we have not been able to overcome all the barriers to doing likewise. We have an ongoing dialog with people driving the oyster restoration effor there and occasionally compare notes. Interestingly, when we hosted a group from the big apple here in February they were impressed with the vitality of our harbor.

Over the next week, we will again be active measuring oysters to generate more data on their growth. There also will be another major dive/measurement on July 18th. Several have already volunteered, but a few more people would make it go even easier.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spat Collector Placement

On Saturday our dive team went into Boston Harbor to place a spat collector to see if we might get reproduction.

Oyster reproduction begins at ~68degrees f. Oysters spawn with the female releasing eggs into the water and the male releasing sperm. Within about six hours, a fertilized egg develops into a free-swimming larva that will develop a shell within 12 to 24 hours. Within a few weeks, the shelled larva develops a foot and settles to the bottom of the water, attaching itself to a hard surface--usually the shell of an adult oyster--to enter into metamorphoses into the form that would be recognized as an oyster.

Here is a link to the full web photo album.Spat Collector Photo Album

Oysters usually start life as males and then will convert to females. We do not know if we have enough females in our population to get a successful set. We are placing an apparatus that is coated with a cement mixture that is high in lime. The floating spat are attracted to it and tend to settle on it.

Let's hope for the best!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MWRA Progress on CS0s-- Meeting with DMF on Fort Point Channel

Recently we came across the 2009 report on the MWRA's effort to close Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). It is impressive to see the tremendous progress that has been made in this ongoing effort. You can see the report by clicking on this link. 2009 MWRA CSO report

Last week Mat Brevard and I met with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to discuss a proposal to raise oysters in an upweller for distribution in the much neglected Fort Point Channel. The dialog was both in depth and productive. Unfortunately there remain some concerns on the DMF-side that will lead us to rethink our strategy for Fort Point Channel. The meeting ended with us agreeing to submit a more detailed proposal on Fort Point Channel.

Thank you for your support Treasure Bay Designs! You may recall that this independent jewelry maker is producing a special MOP bracelet to help fund Oyster Restoration. They have sold 28 to date. In case you missed the posting. Below is a photo and to contact Treasure Bay visit this link.Treasure Bay Designs

The bracelet consists of fresh water pearls with one chalcedony bead in honor of fresh water.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oysters in Dorchester's Malibu Bay Survive Winter in Style

While we lost one cage of oysters at Dorchester Yacht Club due to either a bad knot or frayed rope, we were heartily pleased with the survival we saw in the remaining crate. David Fields volunteered to help out and working together we soon had the data we were after. We had 299 living oysters for a 96.76% survival rate.

Below is David taking a salinity reading. It was 27 ppt. Normal seawater is around 32 ppt. 

The oysters seemed healthy and there was two crabs and a silver fish in the crates with them.  You can see one of the crabs in the upper right hand corner of the milk crate.

Below is a photo of David with the Vice Commodore Brian Taylor who is holding two of our bivalve friends.

We cannot say enough good things about Dorchester Yacht Club. The people are friendly and nice. They are very protective of the oysters and truly care about Malibu Bay. While driving through nearby Savin Hill, moving and buying a small boat to keep at the club was a tempting train of thought.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Data is in Winter Oyster Survival in the Charles Cages is Exceptional

The official statistics are in from our Chief Scientist and the data looks good. The divers pulled up four cages on May 2.  All had survival above 94%.

MA - 94.27%

Near Side Cage #5 - 97.33%

Near Side Cage #7 - 98.69%

Far Side Cage #1 - 95.30%

The oysters outside of the cages faired less well as there was predation. We even caught one Green Crab in the act!

This weekend we will do a survey of Fort Point Channel.

Mass Oyster Windbreakers Available!

For all you fashion mavens who have been wondering what to wear on those chilly mornings or breezy days at the shore or as you are out and about, Mass Oyster has the answer in its MOP logoed windbreakers!

These are the colors and they are available in adult sizes SMLXL

The logo is as below but the jacket is really maroon as above.

The price of fashion in this case is reasonable as they are available for a modest $25. Email and we will get one out to you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Informative Talk on Steamed Clam Restoration in Boston Harbor

On Monday, I attended a presentation on "The Return of the Clam" at the Orient Heights Yacht Club that was sponsored by the Friends of the Belle Isle Marsh. Dr. Joe Buttner of Salem State College and the Northeastern Massachusetts Aquaculture Center gave an excellent presentation talking about aquaculture and a shellfish farming project to restore Softshell Clams in Boston Harbor and coastal Massachusetts. He showed how they stimulate clams to spawn and produce spat in their lab to later place them in tidal flats in Boston Harbor.
There were many parallels to the Massachusetts Oyster Project’s efforts to restoring oysters. They are now placing the clams below nets to prevent predation from Green Crabs. (This species is not native to this area, but arrived from Europe some ~50 years ago.) Like MOP, they have proven survival and growth. They also are working to generate data on reproduction to see if the placed clams are generating offspring.
The steamed clams that are harvested from Boston Harbor are all sent to Newburyport for treatment so that they can be sold for consumption. Only steamers may be harvested.
There was an older gentleman there who participated in an oral history project regarding Chelsea Creek conducted by the Chelsea Creek Action Group. He indicated that as part of that project he heard a man named Sal or Vinnie recount how his grandfather made his living harvesting oysters from Chelsea Creek. MOP unsuccessfully submitted a grant to the Boston Foundation to obtain funding for a pilot oyster program there. He has invited to take a few people out on a tour of the creek through the Belle Isle Marsh, so we will set up a date to do so.

A young gentleman from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) was also there and spoke very knowledgeably about the program. Chris is active in this program and may be reaching out to MOP when they need volunteers on the clam project. I also invited him to come along when we measure some of the oysters in cages.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Oyster Update

A great group of volunteers assembled sunday to check on the oysters for the first time in 2010.

We brought up 4 of the cages with known numbers of oysters placed last fall. We also pulled up random cages to make many measurements of growth.
The survival in the cages was very good. Only about 5% of the oysters died over the winter which is very favorable.

Underwater, the dive team looked for signs of silting, which was minimal. Many of the loose oysters were being killed by predators however. Below is a picture of a crab eating an oyster.

One interesting thing we saw was that some of the oysters had developed an imprint of the cage mesh on their shells.

Several of the cages have temperature data loggers in them that we removed and downloaded. We will share all of our data soon! Special thanks to Rich for running the last set of oysters back over to the north when the rest of us had called it a day!
In June we will do more monitoring work so please check back for more information soon as we settle on a date for that event! We hope to pull up more cages and will need plenty of volunteers to help measure and count oysters.