Friday, October 21, 2011

Update on MOP Intern's Summer in Maine-- NJ Oyster Restoration Program Starts Again-- MOP hat spotted in Norway!

MOP Intern Goes North

Here is an update on Wellesley College student and MOP intern Shira Bleicher's Summer in Maine.

This summer, I continued on my path of conservation biology, and went
up to Maine. I received a National Science Foundation Fellowship to
work at the Mount Desert Island Biological Lab in Bar Harbor, Maine. I
worked in Dr. Jane Disney's lab, on the conservation and restoration
of Zostera marina, or eelgrass, which has faced a hard path similar to
that of oysters in Boston Harbor. The eelgrass is restored to
Frenchmans Bay using a grid system, in which harvested plants are tied
to weighted grids and lowered into the intertidal zone.

Biodegradable Grids
This summer,
the lab as a whole experimented with new biodegradable grids, which
would take out the removal step and cause less damage to the plants
after the restoration. We created the design and made each grid by
hand - this was pretty tough for our 80 grid transplant, and we had a
lot of volunteers from the community to tie plants to grids on the day
of the transplant.

Harvesting 1600 plants was also a time consuming,
back breaking challenge! We'll likely have results about the new grids
next summer.
Shira in the Lab

The lab also conducted water quality tests and red tide
monitoring, in order to ensure the safety of the community around the
bay. Each fellowship student working at the lab had to design and
conduct their own experiment relating to the overall goal of the lab,
so I spent most of my time on that. Elias Peirce, a freshman at
Bowdoin College, and I conducted an experiment that took place at 4AM
out on a lobstering boat! We collected GPS points at each trap, and
recorded everything that came up in each trap. We were able to overlay
this data over eelgrass location data that we had collected in kayaks,
in order to determine whether or not species diversity and abundance
was related to eelgrass. The results are detailed on our poster, but
we found that smaller lobsters are found closer to eelgrass,
indicating its use as a nursery. Kelp also seemed to pop up as an
interesting relation to species counts, and may be a new conservation
We are delighted to see MOP alumni making progress in their careers. Below is photo of a Maine morning taken by Shira. It did not fit with the text but was too beautiful to leave out. 

Photo credit Shira Bleicher

NJ Oyster Restoration Program Starts Again

The following encouraging news was sent to us by NY/NJ Baykeeper, who has had a rough ride with regulatory auithorities who removed and destroyed oysters that were part of a restoration program. 

 NY/NJ Baykeeper placed 18 oyster nets into the water  at Naval Weapons Station Earle today, in order to conduct scientific research about the viability of oysters in that area of the Raritan Bay.  

In July, 2010, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection banned research, restoration, and education projects using oysters in "contaminated" waters; waters classified as "Restricted" or "Prohibited" for shellfish harvest.  The ban ground to a halt NY/NJ Baykeeper's scientific work to test the viability of restoring oysters in the Raritan Bay.  Not content to abandon hope for restoring water quality in the Raritan Bay, NY/NJ Baykeeper approached the Navy about placing oyster nets at Naval Weapons Station Earle, which is under 24/7 security, and therefore eliminates any poaching risk. 

 "We are grateful for Captain Harrison, and his staff at Naval Weapons Station Earle for being a gracious hosts to our team of scientists as they prepare to revive this vital research project," continued Mans.   "We hope that NJDEP will overturn its ban on oyster research so that we can expand this scientific work beyond Earle."
While awaiting approval from NJ DEP to place the oysters at Earle, NY/NJ Baykeeper and its volunteers have been growing baby oysters in tanks in space provided by Moby's restaurant in Highlands.  The babies were recently counted and measured, and they were placed in tiered oyster nets placed sub-tidally below the pier at Earle.  In spring the nets will be removed and the oysters inspected.  The results will answer a simple question:  can oysters survive a winter in the water at Naval Weapons Station Earle?  The answer will guide future oyster research and restoration opportunities. 

Back here in New England, the oysters placed by the Mass Oyster Project are within direct line of site of a State Police Marine facility, so hopefully this would allay concerns of poaching within our regulatory authority.  Also Boston Harbor is closed to shell fishing with the exception of steamer clams in certain areas under strict regulation, so this further reduces the likelihood of pilferage. 

MOP hat spotted in Oslo Norway!

Anupendra Sharma sent us this photo of him with his MOP hat in front of the Opera House in Norway. "The Opera House is one of the most famous buildings in Scandinavia. It is in a beautiful location on the water's edge where fresh (cool) breezes often blow." 
MOP hat sited in front of Oslo Opera House


Monday, October 17, 2011

Lobster Talk-- Two Oyster Events-- MOP Hat spotted in Germany-- Welfleet Oysterfest Update

---Lobster Talk-

The Friends of the Belle Isle Marsh is sponsoring another of its popular talks with a gentleman speaking about lobsters on Monday October 24th. The speaker will be Bill Adler from the Mass Lobstermen's Association whom we have heard that he is a terrific speaker. 

Trivia question, where is the largest concentration of lobsters in the US?
Answer. Memphis Tennessee- this is where the Fed-Ex shipping hub is. 

Two Oyster Events

On Monday October 17th there will be a special Oyster event at Charlestown's Tavern on the Water. For details you can visit this thrill list site. It looks like a fun event with oysters prepared in different ways including baked and stuffed!

On Sunday October 30th, B and G Oysters in Boston's South End will be hosting a Fall Festival. It will include shucked oysters, apple bobbing, face painting, an outdoor raw bar, and previews of upcoming menu items. Bring your carved pumpkin for our jack o lantern contest and win delicious prizes! Judging at 3 PM.  

MOP Hat Spotted in Munich Germany's Marienplatz.

Mass Oyster Hat in front of the Glockenspiel in Munich's New Town Hall that was completed in 1907. The hall is 259 feet tall and contains a mechanical clock with knights and dancers.
Wellfleet Oyster Festival

MOP had a table at the Wellfleet Oyster Festival on Sunday. The activity around the booth was robust and board member Ben Wigren made some important contacts. Another lesson learned at this event was that you need to get there early to beat the traffic. There was a 7 mile backup as I tried to get there on Saturday around noon.
The Mass Oyster booth at the Wellfleet Oyster Festival

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wellfleet Oyster Festival, Update on New York's Oyster Restoration Effort, Wanna Buy an Oyster Hatchery?

Wellfleet Oysterfest is Fast Approaching

The Wellfleet Oysterfest is coming up on October 15th and 16th. While it is well out on the Cape it is well worth the drive. In addition to having lots of the world’s best bivalve, there will be music, beach walks and activities for kids. The free children’s area includes a moonbounce, pumpkin decorating, face painting, oyster jewelry making, a steel drum workshop, sing-a-longs and more. There also will be a shucking contest and over 90 regional artisans will sell their crafts.

MOP will have a booth on Sunday and you can stop by,  and pick up our latest limited edition Mass Oyster t-shirt and hats. 
Mass Oyster Hat with Washington Street Bridge and Zakem-Bunker Hill Bridge in background.

The event team is still  seeking volunteers. If you are interested you can email Nancy. 

New York Oyster Restoration Update

We pass on here the latest update we have received from New York. It is great to see they are making progress. But it is bittersweet as they are so far ahead of Boston in so many ways. The coalition working on it is sizable with broad support from many organizations and the involvement of the EPA.  The following is an excerpt from their newsletter.

This summer, NY/NJ Baykeeper and the Oyster Restoration Research Project (ORRP) partners have continued monitoring oysters placed on five reefs in NY Harbor, the Bronx River, and the Hudson River in 2010. Over the last two months, an additional 85,000 oysters grown by New York Harbor School were placed at three of those reefs.

The ORRP partnership now includes upwards of 30 organizations, and each makes major contributions to the extensive work involved with organizing, permitting, building, maintaining, monitoring, and funding a project of this scale. Dozens of hearty volunteers, private homeowners, and the Richmond County Yacht Club, have contributed to the work as well. The research underway includes teams from University of New Hampshire, Stony Brook University, Baruch College, Rutgers, and others, and is expertly managed by the Hudson River Foundation. 

Biodiversity at the reefs is also an unfolding story. Staten Island reef divers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were joined recently by about a dozen graceful Little skates (Leucoraja erinacea), while New York Harbor School divers report that at the Governors Island reef, patches of oysters installed just six weeks ago are 'bridging the gap' and beginning to grow together in early reef formation, flanked by extensive mussel beds towards the shore.

We too are learning and recently had 30 volunteers putting down 80,000 oysters. One of our near term goals is to prepare a lessons learned presentation to post on Slideshare.

Oyster Hatchery for Sale

Do you have a craving to get involved in the oyster industry? An oyster hatchery is for sale in Virginia. Click on the album below to check out photos. 

If the pictures have captured your interest, you can contact John Vigliotta @ 804-694-7685  For $650,000 you can get 12 acres with 400 feet of ocean front.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Thank You Volunteers, Live Oysters Found Near UMass, What Lives in an Oyster Reef II

Thank You Volunteers

The weather held off and we were blessed with over 30 adults and children helping out getting the oysters to their new home. It was great seeing people connect with the water and see the life in it. Our boat driver said he had several people who were helping drop the oysters say they had never seen the Harbor up close in this way. We are glad to have provided the opportunity and hope they will pursue other opportunities to capitalize on this resource such as visiting Spectacle Island.
Our volunteers hard at work. Photo credit to Boat Captain David Wolfe.

One of our young volunteers. Photo credit Kristen Stivers

Live Native Oysters Found Near UMass Boston

We recently learned from UMass Boston Faculty Member  Ana-Marija Frankic  that area high school students had found a small population of native oysters in an area near the school. While small in number, the population had been there for several years. Interestingly, the  population contained both European and the native Eastern Oysters (To learn more visit this link.) It is interesting to ponder if Eastern Oysters (crassostrea virginica) are the remnant of what was once a much larger population or more recent arrivals.  We know that the European oyster (osstrea edulis) is the result of an accidental release from an aquaculture project decades ago. Dr. Frankic is also founder of the Green Boston Harbor initiative and a tireless advocate for improving the quality of the Harbor.  Note that Boston Harbor is closed to shellfishing with the exception of steamer clams under special permit, which are sent to a plant for cleansing before introduction into the food system.

Photo from Green Boston Harbor Website
What Lives in an Oyster Reef II

Here are a few of the creatures that our volunteers were able to see on Saturday.  Amazingly, the kids were not shy about handling them, reminding me of exploring Maine tidal pools as a youth.

The Grubby

This small fish is ubiquitous in rocky coasts North of Cape Cod. It looks a lot like a small sea robin. We have only seen them at a size of less than 3 inches so they are more cute than intimidating.
Grubby's generally do not exceed 6 inches in length and can be a nuisance to fisherman using bait. Photo credit Jason Robins

The Rock Gunnel

Also known as the butterfish due to its slipperiness or rock eel, the Rock Gunnel can grow to 15 inches. They are found on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, avoiding predators by hiding in nooks and crannies. We come across them frequently and the ones we see are 4-6 inches long. We have found caches of eggs on netting in the fall and perhaps this is the source.

Rock Gunnel entwined around a snail.  Photo credit Jason Robins

The Northern Sea Star

Sea Star- This invertebrate preys on our oysters and is prevalent in Boston Harbor Photo credit Jason Robins

Sea stars, (starfish to me)  are not fish as they lack both a spine and fins.  They are echinoderms- spiny skinned invertebrates.. Sea stars are able to regenerate lost limbs and in some cases a severed arm can even grow into a complete sea star. At one time fishermen used to cut them up and throw them back into the sea. They were badly mistaken as the vivisectionists were in fact increasing the sea star population.

These creatures have a strong affinity for our oysters and we believe they have eaten many of the oysters we have placed.. Our divers have reported seeing hundreds of them on the bottom.  Ideally we should find an area with lower salinity as the sea star has poor osmolar control and they cannot survive in areas without a good deal of salt in the water. Unfortunately, our Scientific Permit limits our options in how/where we place our oysters.