Monday, July 25, 2011

Cape Cod Adventure- Visit the Audubon Reef Restoration New York Sewage Troubles

Visit an Oyster Reef in the Making

If you are on the Cape and looking for a fun activity that the kids will enjoy too, check out the Audubon Society's oyster reef restoration effort in Wellfleet. Bob Prescott gives a great tour and has done a nice job getting this project moving forward.

Here is the address and times.
Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary 291 State Highway, Route 6
South Wellfleet
Oyster Reef Tour
Visit the wild oyster reef restoration site with sanctuary director Bob Prescott and enjoy oysters on the half shell at sunset. Transportation from the sanctuary is provided.
Monday, Aug. 1, 6:30-9 p.m. and Monday, Aug. 29, 5-7:30 p.m. $15 Members/$20 Non-members
Here is a write-up  on a site visit by a Globe Reporter.

New York City Sewage Leak

View of Manhattan from the West with Hudson River
New York City has seen numerous beaches closed over this past weekend due to a fire in a sewage treatment plant that treats 120 million gallons per day. Raw sewage was being dumped into the Hudson River on the West Side of Manhattan. Surprisingly, the sewage was best detected by its grayish color in the water and not by smell. This event also is a reminder of how one mishap can alter our world very quickly. Fortunately, the plant is back up in operation now. To learn more visit here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Intrepid Young Lady Wearing a MOP Hat at a Michigan Lake

Vivi Brevard modeled her MOP hat after touching down at a remote location in Americas Northern heartland.

When not walking in the steps of Indiana Jones, she enjoys dools and pre-school. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fishing Boston Harbor- Great Fun

Since we are curious about the health of the harbor and had seen Captain Bill's impressive slideshare presentation, we decided to check it out for ourselves. In short, we had a great time and were impressed to see the activity on the harbor with  five or six boats chasing the blues and stripers. It was a Wednesday so there were not many recreational fishermen/boaters about. There also were a few lobster boats puttering around.

We left at 6:30 with only the Coast Guard boats and gulls cruising the harbor.

We soon had the Boston Skyline not far behind us as we began casting to land the monster fish we were seeking.

Soon we were in a patch of feeding gulls and fish were breaking the surface. My colleague caught the fish of the day- a striper that approached 36 inches. Unfortunately, as we went to haul it into the boat it slipped away.

There was a bit of wind that kept dispersing the bait fish so we had to hustle and cast fast. We cruised around Long Island, Spectacle Island, and Peddocks Island chasing the fish. We saw the forts at Castle Island and George's Island. The latter had served as a prison in the Civil War is haunted by a lady in black and also hosted an event that Edgar Allen Poe used as the basis for the Cask of Amontillado story.

We did bring home one large blue fish. But where would we clean it? And How?

Then the light bulb went on and we visited Keri at the North End's Mercato del Mare. The food and staff here are awesome.
Keri with the large blue fresh from our Boston Harbor!
Working with her team and sharp knives we soon had it scaled, gutted, and filleted.

Griffin and Keri hold the end product. Thank you!

Tonight we will grill it lightly with a light coating of sea salt. We can hardly wait!

Friday, July 8, 2011

First Oyster Shell Recycling Program in Boston History Complete

This was an exciting week for MOP as we completed the first oyster shell recycling project in Boston Harbor history. It is a wonderful story as there are so many pieces and volunteers that came together to make it happen.

The story begins last winter when MOP was seeking oyster shell to place young oyster spat on to use in restoration. (This is a technique used by many groups that we wanted to employ.) Basically you collect old shell, dry it, place it in mesh bags, and then set microscopic oysters (spat) on it. The oyster spat tend to grow well on the shell substrate and are better able to avoid predation. We have had issues with starfish and crabs dining on our oysters.Over the winter we were not able to find the shell we needed and a place to store it. So we thought we were done with this for 2011.

Then along came Jennifer from B&G Oysters

B&G Oysters is a neighborhood restaurant located at 550 Tremont Street in Boston. Barbara Lynch's staff holds an Oyster Invitational there every spring. It is a wonderful event with oysters from a variety of locations. They have graciously provided MOP with a booth and even made a donation of the first event's raffle proceeds.

The B&G facade at the big event.
Barbara Lunch with large donation check to MOP from the first invitational

Their manager Jennifer Pieters called to reach out to us. "Would we take their empty oyster shells and recycle them?" she asked. Two of our volunteers Mat and Rich went to the event and collected buckets of shells and loaded them into the back of Mat's station wagon. (Not only should they be thanked, but Mat's wife should too. The scent left behind on a warm day is pretty strong.)
Mat and Rich on a dive
Mat dried the oyster shell on his driveway and then we packaged them in mesh bags for a trip to Aquacultural Research Corp on the Cape.
Oyster shell drying
Mat Brevard placing oyster shell into mesh bags.
The bagged oyster shell waiting to get some spat added.

ARC put the shell in the water, grew spat, and had them ready for us to pick up earlier this week. We had timed the trip to pick them up such that they would be in Boston at low tide. However, this meant when we picked them up in Dennis six hours earlier it was high tide. And our oyster shell was in deep water.

Intrepid ARC employees went for a swim to get the oyster shell! Thank you Gail, Sue and Terry for going the extra mile.

Gail and Sue fishing out our oyster shell.
The oyster shell in the car wrapped in moist burlap.

Tuesday night as the sun was setting, new volunteer Steve, David and his son Matt put the oyster shell with the spat on it in the water. Divers will be going down in a few weeks to check on it. Through this process we had a few firsts and learned new techniques. Our plan is to repeat the process next year on a much larger scale. We also are discussing a broader shell recycling program with Boston restaurants. (Idea- This could be a great project for a motivated Eagle Scout candidate or college Senior seeking to differentiate herself on a college application.)

Mathew Wolfe working hard hauling shell.

Recycled oyster shell waiting on the rocks for placement in Boston Harbor.

Massachusetts DMF placing steamer clams on Thompson Island

We also recently learned that DMF is conducting a soft shell clam placement on Thompson's Island today. We think it is great that they are pushing this forward. We hope that they will expand their thinking and view the Harbor more broadly than as a source for steamer clams. An oyster reef shelters 100 other species including shrimp, crabs, lobsters, eels and young fish. These creatures in turn draw larger species. If we want to maximize the productivity of our harbor it will take a combination of programs.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oysters Developing Disease Resistance- Great Discussion of Ocean Acidification-- Make $1750 Eating Oysters!

Joe P. an early friend of MOP and shellfish expert forwarded word of this this interesting research being conducted at William and Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Long-term Study Shows Oysters Developing Disease Resistance

A unique, 50-year data set collected by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science shows that Chesapeake Bay oysters are developing resistance to the pair of diseases—MSX and Dermo—that have helped push populations of these iconic shellfish to one percent of historical levels.

MSX disease results from an infection by the single-celled protozoan Haplosporidium nelsoni. Dermo is caused by the parasite Perkinsus marinus.

Researchers in VIMS' Shellfish Pathology Laboratory began gathering the data in 1960 as part of their "Spring Imports" project. Each May, the researchers collect about 700 oysters from a disease-free area in the Bay. The current collection site is in the upper reaches of the Rappahannock River near Ross Rock, where low-salinity waters inhibit the parasites that cause MSX and Dermo disease.

The researchers then transport these disease-free oysters to the saltier waters of the York River near VIMS, where they are placed in cages and monitored each month through October for signs of disease.

Ryan Carnegie, an Associate Research Scientist in the Shellfish Pathology Lab, says "These oysters are completely naïve, having undergone no selection for resistance to disease. The prevalence of parasites in their tissues at the end of the summer thus tells us how much MSX and Dermo is really out there in the Bay."

Results of the monitoring program show an upward trend in the prevalence of both diseases among the transplanted oysters. Infection rates for MSX have risen from 35-40% in the early 1960s to 80-90% since 2000.
Professor Eugene Burreson, who heads the Shellfish Pathology Lab at VIMS, says "our monitoring program shows that disease pressure is really high and increasing."

Despite this pressure the oysters seem to be responding. "The Wreck Shoal study in the lower James provides the most complete long-term study of disease prevalence on a wild oyster reef," says Burreson. "It clearly shows increased resistance to MSX in response to increased disease pressure." The prevalence of MSX among Wreck Shoal oysters has fallen from a high of 82% in 1996 to under 50% during recent years, and serious infections have become rare.

The Fall Survey of Dermo disease in Virginia oyster populations tells a similar story. Although the impact of Dermo among wild Chesapeake Bay oysters is still significant, it is much lower than that seen in the "naïve" spring imports in the York.

Carnegie says "decreased disease in the wild despite favorable conditions for the parasites is a clear sign of increasing resistance among our native oysters due to long-term exposure."

The data also show occasional sharp drops in infection rates during wet years, when freshwater runoff lowers the Bay's salinity. The parasites that cause MSX and Dermo prefer salinities above about 10 parts per thousand (ppt). Salinity in the brackish waters of Chesapeake Bay can range from 5-30 ppt depending on rainfall, tides, and other factors. The salinity of seawater is around 35 ppt.

There is an interesting presentation on this topic on slide share. I have pasted in the presentation below.

Through a Shellfish Message Board we learned of this nice write up on Ocean Acidification by Nancy Shrodes click on this link to get the whole article.

What is ocean acidification (OA), and how does it happen?

Oceans act as a sink for carbon dioxide, absorbing 30% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. Through a series of chemical reactions an overabundance of CO2 can result in a lower pH, creating a more acidic oceanic environment (the lower the pH of a substance, the more acidic it is). In the last century alone, pH has already decreased by 0.1 units, a notable change in acidity.  It is no coincidence that the onset of such rapid changes became visible after the Industrial Revolution, considering it initiated the monumental increase in greenhouse gas emissions that continues today.
While changes in temperature and pH occur simultaneously as the result of the increased release of fossil fuels, it is important to keep in mind that they are separate processes. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC predicts a 0.3-0.5 unit drop in pH  if current emission rates continue. These are huge changes for sensitive marine communities, occurring at faster rates than have ever occurred in the last 55 million years.

OA causes shell degradation and inhibits many species ability to calcify.

OA is a relatively new area of study, and the research that has been done thus far has identified varied species-specific responses to increasing acidification that influence reproduction, growth, and behavior. The process of OA reduces the amount of calcium carbonate available for calcifying organisms like plankton, shellfish, and corals, which use calcium carbonate to build their hard parts. Hence, OA directly inhibits their ability to create and maintain protective shells and skeletons. In studies that looked at the development of marine organisms in conditions of warmer and more acidic waters like those predicted for the year 2100, many showed thinner, weaker, and deformed shells in organisms such as mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops.

Reading this one can only wonder what the affect could be locally of having large amounts of oyster shell present in an area. It is a known buffer for acidity and thus the restoration of extensive oyster populations may be a partial offset.

Make $1750 Eating Oysters

Through we learned that the New Orleans Oyster Festival has an oyster eating contest. Bring your appetite. At last year’s tournament, Sonya Thomas sucked down 37 dozen oysters, that’s 444  in the eight minutes allotted.