Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mass Oyster at the Acropolis! What Lives in an Oyster Reef?

MOP in Greece

MOP Volunteer Jake Levy sent us this photo of him attired in a MOP hat at the Acropolis. (Maybe this is why the blog has been getting so many hits from Greece!) He volunteered with us this summer and you may have the opportunity to meet him in person at our October 1st oyster placement. These hats also will be available at the Mayflower Brewery Oyster tasting on September 24th froom 3:30-6:00 pm.

MOP Volunteer Jake Levy at the Acropolis in Athens
Oysters in Greece

The ancient Greeks obtained most of their protein from fish, however they did occasionally consume oysters and turtles as well. Here is more on the Ancient Greek diet.

In recent times, true cultivation of shellfish in Greece has only begun in the last five years and is at present only concerned with one species, the Mediterranean mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis. All other species, and much of the mussel production, are still only fished from wild stocks. The situation is likely to change for two species, however, namely the European flat oyster, Ostrea edulis, and the clam, Venerupis decussatus (Fr. palourde, Gr. akivada).* Pressure on existing stocks of oysters, reflected in declining catches in the main fishery in Thermaikos Gulf, is a stimulus for steps to be taken to supplement ‘spatfall’, the collection of seed oysters from natural settlement. In the case of palourde, commercial pressure for increased production of this high value species is generating interest in its cultivation, methods for which are now evolving on a commercial scale in France, Spain and Italy. Interest in crustacean (penaeid shrimp) culture is at a similar level. Small lagoon fisheries exist for the native species, Penaeus kerathurus, and basic research on the maturation cycle of this species has been carried out. A commercial proposal has been made to establish a penaeid hatchery on the island of Skyros and the Ministry of Agriculture are considering a shrimp hatchery in their plans for state marine hatcheries.

The historical lack of interest in mollusc farming can be related to the absence of a home market for anything other than a small quantity of mussels and cockles (Cerastoderma edule). As well as being small, the market has a strong regional bias. Only in the north of the country is there an established tradition of eating molluscan shellfish, while in the major centre of population, Athens, molluscs are viewed with suspicion and are only offered by a minority of restaurants.

The oyster and palourde fisheries depend entirely on export markets in Spain and Italy, with some oysters going into France. Most of the oysters are dredged from Thermaic Gulf, south west of Thessaloniki, but here the catch has declined from about 2 000 t/year to just over 1 000 t. A smaller fishery yielding 150 t has developed in Stilida (Maliakos Gulf) over the last two years. About half of the national production of palourde come from a small area of inter-tidal beach near Alexandropoulis in the north east, which yields about 75 t/year. The remaining 75 t is drawn together for marketing by the same cooperative from small beds around the country, such as Stilida, and Geras Gulf (Lesvos). Some are sold from a shore on Salamis, close to Piraeus.

What lives in an oyster reef?

An oyster reef adds roughness or rugosity to the ocean bottom. And over 100 other species will use it for shelter. These smaller creatures, in turn serve as food sources for larger species such as bluefish and sea bass that fishermen covet.

We are going to start publishing photos of the species we find. Today's example came from Board member Ben Wigren.

On-line experts have told us this is a Rock Perch, yet Wikipedia says a Rock Perch is a "small bass"
This fingerling was taking shelter among our oysters. Is it truly a perch or a small bass as stated in the Wikipedia posting? In any case we hope to make homes for thousands of his brethren over the next few years. We have had fish as large as 8 inches in there. This photogenic fellow was returned to the waters a few moments later.

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