Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Excellent Study on Oysters and Water Shows They Do Improve Water Quality by Filtering and Removing Nitrogen

Our friends at the Division of Marine Fisheries have frequently voiced doubts about oysters' ability to filter water. In several meetings they have asked us to prove that this is the case. In many ways this is like proving that smoking causes cancer. That link was obvious to everyone for years, but actually proving the link took time and a lot of money. And with MOP being a non-profit with limited resources, everyone sitting at that table knew it would be a herculean task for us to accomplish.

Interestingly, a very thorough study on this very topic just came out from the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. The report entitled Assessment of Oyster Reefs in Lynnehaven River as a Chesapeake Bay TMDL Best Management Practice pretty thoroughly lays out the case for oyster reefs and their filtration abilities and their ability to fix nitrogen. We have forwarded the report to the relevant parties for their consideration.

There are several intriguing aspects of this. The first is that the City of Virginia Beach and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is thinking of oysters as a way to reduce the effects of water pollution. The second is that the study was very involved and very technical. Like all scientific work, their techniques and assumptions are subject to debate, but this looks like it should stand up pretty well..  

There are several interesting bits in the executive summary which I paste in here.
  1. In previous investigations, it has been found that oysters modify biogeochemical cycles by filtering large quantities of organic matter from the water column. The majority of this organic matter is either used directly by the oysters for growth and maintenance or deposited by oysters on the sediment surface where it becomes a source of food for an abundant and diverse community of organisms.
  2. Our study clearly demonstrates that oyster reef restoration can improve water quality both by sequestering nitrogen in the tissues and shells of organisms and by converting organic nitrogen to nitrogen gas that is removed from the water column via diffusion back to the atmosphere, and by depositing TSS within the reef matrix.
  3. Our first-order estimate of 103 lbs. of N acre-1 yr-1 removed as a result of denitrification associated with oyster reefs needs to be improved using seasonal measurements and static sequestration values need to be converted to rates of nutrient sequestration based upon annual growth and survival rates of oysters and reef-associated macrofauna.
It is ironic that the Mass Oyster Project's effort to place oysters in the water quality challenged Fort Point Channel was denied in part because of--- Pollution. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Oyster Night at Harpoon Brewery Oysters Survive Winter Well

Oyster Night at Harpoon Brewery

MOP will be holding its Second Annual Oyster Night at Harpoon Brewery on Wednesday April 18th from 5:30-7:30 pm. There is a suggested admission donation of $10 per share. Beers are free and oysters are $1 each. There will be our raffle for oyster prizes as well. You can register or pre-order oysters through this link at the Mass Oyster Store- MOP Store. There is free parking and you can get directions here.

Oysters Appear to be Doing Well

We checked on the oysters this weekend and they appear to be doing well. Perhaps this is the result of a mild winter (the second warmest on record according to the Blue Hill observatory) or careful placement. Last Fall we marked the drop spot very carefully and boat-captain Dave Wolfe used laser-like precision on the drops. We did make one mistake, which is that we did not separate out dead shells in the placement, which makes it harder to determine absolute mortality.

There still remains one question, which is how will they do as the water warms. Will we see the predation from green crabs and starfish that we saw previously. Or will this placement show better success. Dives later this year will tell us a great deal.


Monday, March 19, 2012

The Best Audience in the World Sturgeon in the Charles?! The Urban Oasis of Community Boating

The Best Audience in the World!

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of speaking to the best audience in the world. It was the drivers of the Boston DuckBoats. They invited MOP in as part of their annual update and safety training at Community Boating and the learning was fun and flowed both ways. Why was it so much fun? These folks have tons of personality. They cheered at good news, hissed when we talked of regulatory challenges, joked and engaged the speaker. It was wonderful!
The Duckboat drivers ROCK!

It also was impressive to learn about their safety training, licensing, interest in Boston's History. They were running through their annual Coast Guard inspection and going over safe driving practices. The average driver makes 100 decision in a mile. Now imagine making those 100 decisions while reciting Boston History and being entertaining. (This team is bright.) Did you know that Boston's largest hotel is the Sheraton with 1200 rooms? This pales in comparison with the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas which has a wopping 6000 rooms. 

The drivers were enthusiastic supporters of MOP and thanked us for our work. They also asked me if I knew about the recent Sturgeon sighting. I did not! But it is an exciting sign of the ongoing improvement in our Harbor. The biodiversity is continuing to return. Here is a link to photos of the fish and a TV news story.

Sturgeon are a bony fish that has survived since pre-historic times. They are distinctive for their elongated bodies, lack of scales, and occasional great size: sturgeons ranging from 7–12 feet (2-3½ m) in length are common, and some species grow up to 18 feet (5.5 m). Most sturgeons are bottom feeders, spawning upstream and feeding in river deltas and estuaries. They are largely confined to coastal areas. New York State reportedly has a blue sturgeon that can reach 200-300 pounds. They were once plentiful but have become rare to due to overfishing and the industrialization of our coast.

The head of Community Boating, Charles Zechel gave a nice talk about the history of the organization, which originated with one man's effort to teach kids from Boston's West End how to sail in the 1930's. Joe Lee was connected the Storrows and able to demonstrate the benefits of constructively engaging the City's youth.  Early in the 1940's the current structure was built and in 1946 after the war programs commenced. Tradition holds that sailing memberships are available to Boston youth for $1 and this is still true today (with an economic means test.) As an aside in the days before Match.com Community Boating was a great place for singles to meet and the author knows of several marriages that began there.They are currently taking reservations for the fourth of July Fireworks, so if you are a planner, now is the time to strike. 

Charles Zechel talks about Community Boating

Friday, March 16, 2012

Boston Seafood Show Rocks! Shucking Competiton--- Customized Shucking Knives-- MOP Hat spotted at University of VA

Boston Seafood Show Rocks! 

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the International Boston Seafood Show at the Convention Center. To a lover of seafood it was an amazing thrill with purveyors of seafood from all over the world with beautiful product layouts that would make the seafood case at Whole Foods Market cry in envy. There was aisle after of aisle of seafood including salmon, shrimp, cod, lobster and (of course) oysters  from all over the world. In many cases samples were offered and happily accepted. And these folks now how to cook their wares!

An aisle at the Boston Seafood Show
Seafood From Hawaii
This firm specialized in crustaceans.

Crab Legs
We also spent a good deal of time with the team at Pangea Shellfish. We had been introduced to them by the management of Mercato del Mar and they have been supportive of MOP. It was amazing to hear what these folks know about oysters. 
Ben and a colleague from Boston's Pangea Shellfish

Perhaps one of the most intriguing oysters in their inventory were wild oysters from Onset Mass. They had a unique shape with high ridges. Why is the unique shape of interest? Well it is believed that there were once several unique 'races' of oyster. I have read of at least 3, but heard people in the field refer to 7 and even 9. After the oysters began running out in Boston and to a lesser extent the Cape, oystermen began importing seed oysters from Virginia into Massachusetts waters including the Neponsett River. The growers would let them grow out to market size, harvest them and take them to sell. Over time there must have been extensive interbreeding leading to oyster shell shape being similar all over the East Coast. Could it be that Onset never had the influx of non-native oysters? Could it be that this is close to the oyster that the Pilgrims ate? They are on my list to check out as soon as I can.

Wild Onset Oysters

More Pangea Oysters
Virginia Oysters on the Half Shell

Two unhappy attendees of the show.

Oyster Shucking Competition

Most major oyster events hold a shucking competition (MOP has even hosted a few.) and the International Boston Seafood Show is no exception. This years winner was a gentleman, David Leck  from Taylor SeaFoods who had traveled from Washington State.  After several years of trying he landed the Gold.  David shucked 12 oysters in 83.5 seconds to capture the $700 first prize. That is an amazing 7 seconds each! Congratulations Dave.

Custom Engraved Oyster Shucking Knives

If you are looking into a gift for a special event. We found a site that will manufacture custom shucking knives with a name or saying engraved on the blade. You can visit  myoysterknife.com to learn more and place an order.

MOP Hat Sited at the University of Virginia

Jose Mayora was a fast learner at our recent shucking event at Mercato Del Mar.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Warm Temperatures--Signs of Success in Chesapeake Oyster Work-- Wine Dinner

Warm Water Temperatures May Make For An Unusual Year

Seafood news noted that "New England has seen almost no snow this year, and temperatures have been very warm.  In the gulf of Maine, fishermen are reporting water temperatures as much as six degrees above normal.  This is going to play havoc with spring migrations.  Already the first red tide outbreak has been reported in Massachusetts a month early.  Also, on the docks in Gloucester, fishermen say they just don't know where the cod have gone to."

Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration Showing Progress
There is good news coming out of the Chesapeake Bay where restoration programs have been ongoing for some time.Virginia harvested 236,200 bushels of oysters last year. That is up from 79,600 bushels of oysters in 2005 and the most since 1989. Maryland hauled in 121,20 bushels, which was up from had only 26,400 bushels in 2005 and 0 last year.

More than half of Virginia's increase came from private aquaculture. Officials in both states said the fall stock surveys that assess the population also were promising last year.

Virginia's oyster population has been in a slow upswing recently because of better management of the fishery, But the overall population baywide still represents less than 1 percent of its historic numbers. For the full story with graphics visit this article from the Washington Post. Ongoing success there could help build momentum for restoration programs elsewhere.  
MOP Hat In Paris
The ubiquitous MOP hat was recently sighted in Paris outside the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Oyster Shucking at Mercato Del Mare-Boston Is Great Success

Thank you for coming out for a great evening of food and seafood. The team at the Mercato did a fine job teaching with only one minor cut despite opening over 200 oysters. We also send a special thank you to our beer sponsor Mayflower Brewery and Oyster sponsor, Pangea Shellfish.


J. Lohr Wine Dinner Seaglass Restaurant Salisbury, MA  March 21

Here are the details of the March 21 wine dinner. To learn more you can also visit Seaglass Restaurant Events.  

Wednesday, March 21 at 6:30pm
An exquisite evening of food and wine pairings presented with J. Lohr Wines, the Massachusetts Oyster Project, and Seaglass Chef Steven Hill.  A unique four course dinner featuring oyster-infused dishes will also include a short talk by the non-profit group dedicated to the restoration of once native oysters to Massachusetts marine estuaries.

Seaglass Restaurant Spring Wine & Oyster Dinner
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Presented with J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines and the Massachusetts Oyster Project
Four course wine pairing
$60 per person plus tax & gratuity
Includes a $5 donation to the non-profit Massachusetts Oyster Project
Select local oysters
Pomegranate mignonette, smoked salmon mousse, caviar, green apple gelee
The Seaglass Mermaid Cocktail prepared with Ariel Brut Cuvee
Chef's gift
First course
Fried oysters
Baby arugula, grilled lime, toasted pine nuts, chili vinaigrette
J. Lohr Vineyard Series Carol's Sauvignon Blanc, Napa
Second course
Petite filet with baked oysters
Roasted vegetables, foie gras, red wine reduction
J. Lohr Estate Wildflower Valdiguie, Monterey
Apricot panna cotta
Caramelized apple, walnut brittle
J. Lohr Estate Baymist Riesling, Monterey

For reservations, call 978 462-5800. Credit card guarantee required.

Harpoon Brewery Oyster Night  April 18
We also are repeating last  year's fun event at the Harpoon Brewery on April 18th. You can register on the MOP website.MOP events website. We look forward to seeing you there.