Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tour of Big Rock Oyster Farm Rocks!

oyster flats big rock oyster cape cod
Fletcher Students on the flats visiting Big Rock Oyster Farm
On Saturday, Oct 26, a group of two dozen students from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy set out for Cape Cod, to meet with Aaron and Graham of Big Rock Oyster Co.

Tour Big Rock Oyster Company   mass Oyster Project  Fletcher School
Low Tide allows for a walk among the oyster cages.

 Big Rock oyster Company Tour   Aaron   Fletcher School
Aaron of Big Rock Oyster explaining the life and challenges of being an oyster rancher.

The group toured Big Rock's farm in the tidal flats and sampled oysters fresh out of the cages while learning about the farming process, regulatory challenges, and business side of the operation. Afterwards, the group visited Big Rock's sorting facility and took advantage of some of the freshly harvested oysters, clams, and conch on offer!
Big Rock Oyster Tour  Tufts Fletcher School of Government
Fletcher Students leaving with greater knowledge and oysters in hand.
The Fletcher School is a graduate school of international affairs at Tufts University; this trip was a fun opportunity for students from China, Ecuador, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the US to explore and appreciate the local heritage and ecosystems of the place we call home during our studies. Thank you so much to Aaron and Graham for hosting us, and to Mass Oyster Project for connecting us!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Oysters and Pearls

Since Mass Oyster is working to restore oysters, we get lots of pearl questions. (No- we don't want to get the pearls). The oysters we are restoring are the standard Eastern Oyster Crassostrea Virginica. These oysters don't make pearls. Most pearls come from Asia or Australia from a different type of oyster. the Pinctada Maxima is grown in Australia and Tahiti. Personally, I find it hard to tell one type of pearl from another. It appears that the experts in the gem world do to. Below the June Lockhart sidetrack is the story of a group who has gone to Australia to harvest pearls at a source so they have a bona fide reference.

The one thing I do know is that they looked great on June Lockhart in leave it to beaver. Given that she cared about her kids and her world, I am sure she would have been a supporter of oyster restoration to create habitat to improve the fishing and improve ocean water quality. 

Leave it to Beaver Mom Actress June Lockhart in Pearls.
June Lockhart in Pearls


BANGKOK – Oct. 30, 2013 – GIA (Gemological Institute of America) researchers from Thailand, with the assistance of the Paspaley Pearling Company, recently conducted an expedition to Australia’s wild pearl oyster beds, which provided unprecedented opportunity to advance research into differentiating certain nacreous saltwater non-bead cultured pearls from natural pearls. GIA’s pearl research group and others in the pearl trade have focused on this sometimes difficult differentiation for decades. 
In addition to thousands of laboratory analyses over the past few years, a major focus for both  the GIA and Paspaley Pearling Company research teams has been establishing the most important criteria for present and future research: a reliable sample base of natural and cultured pearls of various types. While obtaining a definitive sample base for cultured pearls is straightforward, the rarity of natural pearls makes collecting a substantial sample base challenging.
Oyster and Pearl
Pinctada Maxima Oyster with pears. 

Australia’s wild pearl oyster beds have been fished continuously since the mid-1800’s for Pinctada maxima, the world’s largest species of pearl oyster that has yielded many of the world’s large saltwater natural pearls. GIA sought to conduct research in Australia with Paspaley’s assistance as the country’s seas are home to the world’s last commercially active fishery for wild Pinctada maxima oysters. According to Kenneth Scarratt, GIA managing director for Southeast Asia, several recent expeditions by GIA into the waters off the rugged Northwest Coast resulted in the acquisition of many natural and cultured pearls that have produced excellent data that will enable GIA to establish impeccable test criteria for its pearl identification teams.
“Resolving the issues involved in differentiating natural from saltwater non bead cultured pearls has been a focus of GIA’s research group for some time,” said Scarratt. “Meeting these challenges and using the results to serve GIA’s public benefit mission is what makes this kind of research so rewarding and important.”
A recent expedition that coincided with a Paspaley wild shell collection program focused on gathering large Pinctada maxima shell for use in the Mother of Pearl industry yielded the Institute’s most extraordinary results thus far.
In late September and early October, GIA pearl researchers Artitaya Homkrajae and Areeya Manustrong spent ten days aboard Paspaley’s diving ship MV Marilynne, during which they discovered and extracted 776 natural pearls from 20,488 large wild oysters. A majority of these pearls were small “seed” pearls, with the smallest measuring under 1mm in diameter, and the largest, a rare pearl measuring 16mm diameter. Prior to this expedition, there were few opportunities for gemological laboratories to examine a significant number of undrilled naturalPinctada maxima pearls of confirmed provenance, meaning previously that their origins were determined only by examining their internal structures and provenance ‘assumed’. This sample will provide GIA with a unique and unprecedented opportunity to compare what is understood about natural structures with undrilled pearls known to be natural.
“This was a unique opportunity to gather specimens from an important and well-known source,” said Artitaya Homkrajae, GIA pearl researcher. “Establishing explicit provenance for the samples will support a great deal of further research,” added Areeya Manustrong.
These 776 natural pearls, along with their shells, now reside in GIA’s laboratory in Bangkok. In the coming months, extensive research will be carried out using in-house high resolution real-time microradiography and micro CT imaging, as well as detailed chemical analyses and the application of other test methods. 
As part of GIA’s public benefit mission, a full and detailed report will be prepared and published in the coming months that will help clarify and establish clearer criteria for the interpretation of various data collected during the normal laboratory examination of pearls. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Small Virginia Town Receives Half a Million Dollars for Oyster Restoration

One of the points, we reiterate often to the Massachusetts regulatory authorities is that the Commonwealth is leaving money on the table by not embracing oyster restoration. Here a community of 5000 has tapped the Federal Government for half a million for living shorelines including oyster reef. Massachusetts has 192 miles of coastline. If the scientists reporting rising seas and increased storm intensity are correct, we should not be sitting idly by and letting this opportunity to better prepare our coastal areas slip away. 

ASSATEAGUE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local partners are poised to receive and invest $553,425 in the construction of two living shoreline projects and two acres of oyster reef on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge that will help restore and rebuild the Refuge from impacts associated with Hurricane Sandy.
Chincoteague Map Oyster Restoration
Map of Northern Virginia highlighting Chincoteague


This was confirmed in a recent announcement by the Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, who stated that $162 million will be invested in 45 restoration and research projects that will better protect Atlantic coast communities from powerful storms, by restoring marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuilding shorelines, and researching the impacts and modeling mitigation of storm surge impacts.
At Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, located on the Virginia end of Assateague Island, portions of both the Beach Road and the Service Road were extensively impacted by the storm surge and wave energy associated with Sandy and nearly washed out.

The loss of these roads would impact both the tourism associated with access to the ocean beach and the Service’s ability to manage the natural resources on the Refuge.

“This project provides a terrific opportunity to help protect and increase the long-term resilience of both productive natural systems and man-made infrastructure in the face of climate change impacts at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Living shorelines and oyster restoration work for both people and nature and are truly a 'win-win' approach to climate change adaptation,” said Steve Parker, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve.

“The Conservancy is very excited to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to increase the resilience of one of America’s most visited, economically important, and beloved National Wildlife Refuges.”

The two living shorelines and the oyster reefs proposed for construction under this project are intended as natural infrastructure that will increase the resiliency and capacity of the Beach Road and the Service Road to withstand future storms with reduced damage.

“In addition, the restored oysters associated with the living shorelines and the oyster reefs will provide ecosystem services such as nutrient removal, uptake of sediments, water filtration, increased water quality and increased biomass in the two coves, and provision of habitat for other marine organisms,” stated Kevin Holcomb, supervisory wildlife biologist at Chincoteague NWR.

The investments are consistent with President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Strategy Report and the Administration’s commitment laid out in the Climate Action Plan to build resilience by restoring natural features along shorelines to help better protect communities from future storms. The Department of the Interior has already invested $480 million in Hurricane Sandy response and recovery efforts since the storm hit last October.

An additional $45 million is being invested in assessments, modeling, coastal barrier mapping, and other projects to provide Federal, State, and local land managers and decision makers the information and tools they need to improve resiliency and prepare for future storms.
A Technical Review Panel of ten experts from eight Interior bureaus and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration evaluated all 94 submitted projects totaling a requested $541 million.

Using a framework developed by Interior’s Strategic Sciences Group, the panel scored each project within the Sandy impact area based on the ability to strengthen Federal assets and build coastal resilience to withstand future storms. Projects were selected based on their ability to provide measurable restoration outcomes and resilience benefits or useful data or management tools in a short timeframe. A priority was given to projects that will employ youth and veterans.

Jewell also announced that the Department would issue a Request for Proposals on October 29 for an additional $100 million in grant funding under the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program announced in August. States, local communities, non-profit organizations and other partners can compete for funding for innovative projects under the program, which is being administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Information on the competition can be found at

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The service is a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information, visit

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Opportunity to Learn about Shellfish- Oyster Restoration Aquaqculture in Rhode Island

While a small state, Rhode Island is implementing big changes designed to foster aquaculture. This symposium should be quite interesting.


The Future of Shellfish in Rhode Island

12th Annual Ronald C. Baird Sea Grant Science Symposium
November 14, 2013

Water quality, regulations, economics, social trends, habitat, innovation—all these forces contribute to the success or failure of commercial shellfishing and shellfish aquaculture. Rhode Island is developing a shellfish management plan that addresses these issues, and a symposium is bringing together experts from the state, the region, and beyond to discuss them.

Join us at the Radisson Hotel, Warwick, R.I., for the 2013 Ronald C. Baird Sea Grant Science Symposium, “The Future of Shellfish in Rhode Island: Providing sustainable seafood, economic opportunities, and ecosystem benefits,” to discuss the current and the potential value—economic and environmental—of shellfish to Rhode Island. The sessions will focus on Restoration and Public Aquaculture, Commercial Aquaculture, Commercial Wild Harvest, Water Quality, and the “Go Local” Movement. Registration is $45. Student rate and industry scholarships are available at $20. To register, please contact Deborah Lafen at (401) 874-6645 or download the registration.

FIELD TRIPS 11/15: There will be field trips available on November 15 to your choice of the Matunuck Oyster Farm, Roger WIlliams University's Blount Shellfish Hatchery, or the restored Town Pond in Portsmouth. For details on the field trips, please visit the website.

The 2013 Baird Symposium is funded by Rhode Island Sea Grant, the URI Coastal Institute, and the Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan.

This event is being coordinated in partnership with representatives from the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center, Rhode Island Sea Grant, University of Rhode Island, Roger Williams University, R.I. Department of Environmental Management, R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council, The Nature Conservancy, East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, and the local shellfishing industry.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Oyster Farming at Roger Williams University

Dale Leavit of Roger Williams University drew our attention to this video on oyster farming at the University.

This video was produced for inclusion in a Washington, D.C. based program called Planet Forward.  Planet Forward is where experts and engaged citizens come together to find solutions to our shared challenges, specifically in the areas of energy, climate and sustainability. They have created a dynamic public square, curating the best ideas and innovations from scientists, business leaders, advocates, students and government leaders. They are based at the Center for Innovative Media at the George Washington University where we engage with students and faculty from our university as well as others across the country and the world.
It certainly makes the Rhode Island campus look beautiful.