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 slideshare.net 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