Monday, September 24, 2012

Oyster Shell Recycling Taking Off

Benefits of Oyster Shell

Oyster shell on the ocean floor provides a host of benefits. The first is as a shelter. It's nooks and crannies provide shelter for up to 100 other species, and many of the commercially harvested fish and sport fish species spend a portion of their life in coastal waters. When small they hide from the larger predators. In our oysters, we have seen shrimp, crabs, pogeys, eels,lobsters and a myriad of other creatures.

The second is as a scaffold for live oysters to grow on. Young oysters float in the water and then settle into the post where they will spend their lives filtering. They prefer to settle on calcium containing substances such as oyster shell. If there is not appropriate substrate to attach to the spat can die without a suitable location to anchor. 

The third is in maintaining the acid-base balance of the sea. Mark Green,of St. Joseph's College of Maine has studied this issue extensively. He was the first scientist to prove tiny juvenile clams were dying primarily because their shells were dissolving in less alkaline conditions. Now, the National Science Foundation has honored his pioneering contributions by awarding the marine science professor a third grant to continue his research related to the adverse effects of ocean acidification on clams.Interestingly, he has had good results reversing these effects using oyster shell. 

Mark Green

MOP and Oyster Shell Recycling

As part of our oyster restoration activity the oyster project has begun recycling used oyster shell. We have used it as a substrate for spat-on-shell placements and provided it to restoration programs such as that in Wellfleet. With a growing base of experience, we have now moved beyond accepting it from The B&G Oyster Invitational and our own events (shell will be recycled at the Mayflower event on October 7) to accepting it from fine establishments such as the Langham Hotel and the Boston Seafood Festival on October 6.

Where did the oyster shell go?

The estuaries of Massachusetts and the Eastern Seaboard once contained enormous amounts of shell. The reefs in the Charles and Neponset Rivers were once so large as to be a hazard to ships navigation. But today it is almost devoid of it.

Oyster shell was often lifted from the bottom as by-catch when oysters were dredged. It was then used for a variety of purposes, such as mortar for buildings including the old Massachusetts State House, fill for roads and sidewalks, or even spread on fields to offset soil acidity. 

old Statehouse with oyster shell mortar
Massachusetts Old State House
Unfortunately, most oysters today are grown commercially with minimal shell cultch so many oyster farms are not adding to the mass of oyster shell in the water. And oyster shell recycling is not an easy endeavor. If you are interested in learning more, or starting a program- you can click here, which will take you to the presentation below if it does not display well.

As far as other programs go North Carolina has a terrific shell recycling program. They have restored multiple reefs and are moving shell by the tractor trailer load.

oyster shell recycling for oyster restoration in NC
Volunteers build an oyster reef sill. Photo courtesy of NC Coastal Federation.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

MOP Board Member Ties The Knot

Greg Hanson Weds In Vermont

The Mass Oyster Project community sends our congratulations and best wishes to Greg and Molly Hanson. The two signed on together in a beautiful Vermont ceremony this past weekend. The reception included a raw bar. 

In addition to being supportive of oyster restoration, Molly likes to fish and can bait her own hook.

Outdoorswoman Oyster Restoration Supporter
Mrs. Hanson brings home Dinner!
While Greg and Molly don't yet have need for it. We are making arrangements for Children under 8 to have extended hours at the awesome Imagination Island facility that is next to the Mayflower Brewery at the October 7th beer and oyster tasting.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mass Oyster and Plymouth's Mayflower Brewery

Mayflower Brewery Oyster Event Sunday October 7

On Sunday October 7th from 2:00-6;00 pm MOP and Mayflower Brewery will be hosting the second annual oyster and beer tasting.
Mayflower Brewing Company is a craft beer microbrewery located in historic Plymouth, Massachusetts. Founded in 2007 by a tenth great grandson of John Alden, beer barrel cooper on board the Mayflower, they are dedicated to celebrating the history and legacy of the Pilgrims by creating unique, high-quality ales for the New England market. The Brewery will be showcasing their new Autumn Wheat Ale. This dark wheat beer combines the fruity aroma and bready character of traditional wheat beers with the malty richness of dark ales. The result is a flavorful and medium-bodied beer that is just right for the crisp days of autumn.

MOP and Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth, MA team up again for a craft beer tasting and $1.00 oysters.  Advanced online registration is strongly encouraged through the MOP Store. Your $10.00 per person registration fee gives you tickets to the gift drawing at the event.  When you register, you are also encouraged to pre-order oysters.  Pre-ordering oysters prevents lines and helps us have the right amount of oysters on hand.  We look forward to seeing you at this fun and tasty event.  Register here.

Our friends at Big Rock Oyster company will be supplying and shucking the oysters so there should be an ample amount for all to enjoy.

Mayflower Brewery Oyster Restoration Supporter
Mayflower Brewery with the famous MOP Photo Cutout.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

EPA and Suffolk Downs Agree on Water Quality Plan

Clean Water Act Settlement Leads to Favorable Changes in Water Management at Suffolk Downs 

According to an EPA News Release the Sterling Suffolk Racecourse LLC will pay a civil penalty of $1.25 million to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) at its Suffolk Downs racetrack facility in Revere and East Boston, Mass. The company is also spending more than $3 million to prevent polluted water from entering nearby waterways and will perform three environmental projects worth approximately $742,000 that will provide water quality monitoring and protection efforts for more than 123 square miles of watershed. 

The federal complaint alleged that Suffolk allowed polluted wastewater, including horse manure, urine and bedding material, to discharge into Sales Creek, a tributary of Belle Isle Inlet and Boston Harbor. (It was hard finding a good map of Sales Creek, but this report has some good information and a decent map on page II-7) In addition, the federal complaint alleges that Suffolk operated its concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), which stables race horses from March through November, without a permit under the CWA.

“This settlement reduces a major source of pollution into Boston Harbor,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “In addition, the settlement’s environmental projects include monitoring water quality in the harbor’s watershed, helping to protect a valuable urban waterway for the use and enjoyment of Boston area residents and visitors.”
Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice said “The settlement also brings lasting benefits to residents and the environment by requiring water quality monitoring in the Mystic and Saugus river watersheds and a salt marsh habitat protection project near the racetrack.”

In response to EPA’s enforcement, Suffolk is completing construction of a wastewater collection system, is making improvements to its stormwater collection system and has applied for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Suffolk will minimize the volume of and properly manage the wastewater it produces, which will now be collected in a detention pond and discharged during non-peak hours to the sanitary sewer system. Suffolk will also implement green infrastructure and low impact development techniques to address stormwater discharges from the racetrack and maintenance areas of the facility. These techniques involve the use of natural or engineered systems to direct stormwater to areas where it can be stored, infiltrated or reused.

EPA inspections revealed that Suffolk Down’s process wastewater discharged from the facility to Sales Creek during dry and wet weather. Sampling conducted at various outfalls discharging from the Suffolk Downs facility indicated elevated levels of pollutants, including ammonia, suspended solids and bacteria. Animal wastes contain excessive levels of nutrients and pathogens, which produce adverse environmental impacts including reduction of oxygen in the water, which affects aquatic life.

The presence of excessive nitrogen causes the rapid growth of bacteria that consume the oxygen a nd block light hurting the growth of key species such as eel grass.

Suffolk will undertake three supplemental environmental projects under this settlement, including two water quality monitoring projects and one habitat protection project. Suffolk will work with the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) to conduct monthly baseline and targeted water quality sampling throughout the Mystic River watershed and will work with the Saugus River Watershed Council (SRWC) to conduct a Saugus River watershed sampling program. Both the Mystic River watershed and Saugus River watershed data will be available to the public for free on the MyRWA and SRWC websites. Suffolk will also construct a habitat protection boardwalk in the Belle Isle Marsh, which is immediately downstream of the Suffolk Downs facility and represents one of the largest remaining areas of salt marsh in Boston Harbor. The Belle Isle Marsh encompasses 275 acres of salt marsh, salt meadow, and tidal flats, and is part of the Rumney Marsh Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).

More information:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Island Creek Foundation Gala Yale on Ocean Acidification

Reminder Island Creek Foundation Gala on September 8th

On Saturday September 8, Duxbury's Island Creek Oyster Group will be hosting the annual Foundation Fundraiser, Friends for Haiti. Its shaping up to be another terrific event on the beach, with some epic food from both Boston and NYC's finest chefs, great cocktails, and great friends - all to support the Foundation's work building sustainable sources of protein in developing countries. You can check it out through clicking on this link

The current rate of ocean acidification has no precedent in 300 million years of Earth history according to the Yale Environmental Review

A story in the Yale Environmental Review highlights the rapidly growing phenomenon of ocean acidification. At least a third of all the carbon dioxide that humans have released into the atmosphere has been absorbed by the ocean. Once dissolved in seawater, CO2 forms carbonic acid, which not only lowers the pH of the ocean – that is, makes it more acidic – but also decreases the availability of Carbonate ions (CO32-) to organisms that need it to grow Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) shells. This  is problematic for steamer clams and oysters. The impact on oyster growth is being noted in the Pacific Northwest. Laboratory studies have shown that many organisms at the base of the marine food web suffer from reduced shell formation in acidified conditions – conditions that may become typical during this century. In other words, ocean acidification threatens the very foundation of the marine ecosystem.

Scientists have been able to discern past acidification events for some time by noting a decrease in CaCO3 deposition on ancient seafloors. Recent advances in trace element and isotopic chemistry, however, have enabled them to discern past events with greater clarity than before, and to a horizon of about 300 million years.  Within that span, scientists are looking for events that are analogous to the one that is happening today.

There aren’t many. In most earlier events, the decrease in ocean pH was not accompanied by decreased availability of CO32-.  That is because these past events happened over periods of 100,000 years or more, time during which the natural weathering of terrestrial rock kept the saturation state of CaCO3 in the oceans stable despite the change in pH.  Today, acidification is happening too quickly for weathering to counterbalance it, and so this event may be unprecedented in the history of the planet.

Three past acidification events may be partially comparable to what is happening today, but further research is needed to understand their history in more detail.  In the meantime, it appears that the current acidification event is driving biogeochemical changes in the oceans that are potentially unparalleled in the history of Earth. 

One implication of this for oyster restoration is that the presence of a mass of shell may be helpful on a micro-level as the shell is an effective buffer to acid. One of oyster shell's main components its calcium carbonate which is effectively the same acid neutralizer as that in Rolaids and Tums.