Monday, June 30, 2014

New Hampshire Oyster Restoration Successfully Putting Federal Dollars to Work

This article is excerpted an article by Crystal Weyers from Seacoast Online. You can see the original article here. The Great Bay is an enormous and underknown estuary near Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Here is a link to The Great Bay Stewards.

Restoration effort of Great Bay making 'measurable progress'

PORTSMOUTH — The effort to restore reefs of live oysters to the Great Bay estuary is in it's sixth year and making measurable progress.

NH Great Bay Oyster Restoration
Map of New Hampshire's Great Bay

With 15.5 acres of reef constructed and more than 13 million adult oysters restored to the estuary already, the effort is the largest of its kind north of Chesapeake Bay.
“We're a little ahead of schedule,” said the Conservancy's director of external affairs, Jim O'Brien.The Nature Conservancy and its partners at the University of New Hampshire have been busy attempting to restore the “once abundant shellfish to a natural system stressed from a number of factors including loss of habitat and increased nitrogen levels.”
This summer's reef restoration, in the bay near Newmarket, was completed Wednesday. O'Brien said the population first collapsed in the 1990s when a waterborne disease made its way up the coast from the southern states.
“It really decimated the population,” he said. “It wiped out the vast majority, (90 percent), of the reefs.”
The oysters now being introduced are special disease-resistant oysters raised at a UNH laboratory by Dr. Ray Grizzle. The group is hoping these oysters will grow a more resilient population.
The shellfish play an integral role in sustaining the estuary and filtering harmful pollutants out of the water. O'Brien said the creatures offer three benefits: providing a physical reef structure, which acts as a physical barrier in the water column to help prevent erosion; serving as a habitat for many species of fish and eel grass; and filtering nitrogen and other pollutants.
“Oysters are water filters,” he said, explaining one oyster can filter as many as 20 gallons of water each day on its own. With Great Bay suffering from increased nitrogen levels, oysters provide a natural solution.
“The more oysters, the more filtering of nitrogen they do and the less nitrogen in the water,” O'Brien said, adding the reefs are built near wastewater treatment plants that are already closed off to harvest. 
It is interesting that New Hampshire has found ways to place oysters in closed waters while those in Massachusetts remain inflexible on this point.
Although the group has worked to construct acres of reefs the past several years, O'Brien said the goal is for the oysters and the reefs to eventually become self-sustaining. The reefs are built by laying several hundred tons of dried, recycled surf clam shell to the estuary channel bottom in arranged plots. The shell layer acts as the foundation for the living reefs, which then act as “spawner sanctuaries” for the rest of the estuary.
“The restoration of oysters may be Great Bay's best hope for a sustainable recovery of the estuary” said Dr. Ray Konisky, the conservancy's director of marine science. “These resilient animals are amazing natural water filters — with mature reefs having the ability to naturally remove tons of nitrogen annually from the system. We feel strongly that oyster restoration is a natural solution that will help bring the Bay back into balance.”
The scientists' goal is to restore 100 acres by “ramping up” their efforts in the next few years. Konisky believes the reefs will offer “dramatic, long-term benefits for the natural system” and are simply “a common sense solution that will assist our communities in meeting their nitrogen reduction goals.”
The newest reefs were constructed earlier this week by marine scientists from the Nature Conservancy and UNH alongside local marine contractors Riverside & Pickering and Granite State Minerals. Later this summer, more than a half-million of Grizzle's lab-raised oysters will be placed on the newly constructed reef. The reef will be monitored to measure oyster growth, habitat restoration and overall reef success.
Funding for the project comes from federal, state, and private sources. Lead funders include the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Restoration Center, N.H. Department of Environmental Services and many private donors.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ocean Acidification Affects the Plankton That Provide Our Oxygen Oysters Are a Natural Acidity Buffer.

This article on ocean acidification is excerpted from another article that can be found here. The issue of ocean acidification is relevant to oysters in that oyster shell is a natural buffer to acidity- and there is evidence that oyster shell can neutralize acidity on a local level. 

Acid seas threaten creatures that supply half the world's oxygen 

 By Martha Baskin and Mary Bruno

Ocean acidification is turning phytoplankton toxic. Bad news for the many species, that rely on them either directly or indirectly (humans), as a source of food and oxygen.

Phytoplankton are the components of the mostly single celled community that develop their own energy through photosynthesis or less commonly chemosynthesis. Most phytoplankton are too small to be individually seen with the unaided eye. However, when present in high enough numbers, they may appear as a green discoloration of the water due to the presence ofchlorophyllwithin their cells.
What happens when phytoplankton that make up the foundation of the marine food web are exposed to acidity? They have a harder time making certain amino acids and may have larger amounts of certain toxins.
Their toxins can concentrate in the shellfish and many other marine species (from zooplankton to baleen whales) that feed on phytoplankton. Recent research by a team of scientists aboard the RV Melville shows that ocean acidification could dangerously alter these microscopic plants, which nourish a menagerie of sea creatures and produce up to 60 percent of the earth's oxygen.
The researchers worked in carbon saturated waters off the West Coast, a living laboratory to study the effects of chemical changes in the ocean brought on by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. A team of scientists from NOAA's Fisheries Science Center and Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, along with teams from universities in Maine, Hawaii and Canada focused on the unique "upwelled" zones of California, Oregon and Washington. In these zones, strong winds encourage mixing, which pushes deep, centuries-old CO2 to the ocean surface. Their findings could reveal what oceans of the future will look like. The picture is not rosy.
Scientists already know that ocean acidification, the term used to describe seas soured by high concentrations of carbon, causes problems for organisms that make shells. “What we don't know is the exact effects ocean acidification will have on marine phytoplankton communities,” says Dr. Bill Cochlan, the biological oceanographer from San Francisco State University oceanographer who was the project’s lead investigator. “Our hypothesis is that ocean acidification will affect the quantity and quality of certain metabolities within the phytoplankton, specifically lipids and essential fatty acids.”
Acidic waters appear to make it harder for phytoplankton to absorb nutrients. Without those nutrients they're more likely to succumb to disease and have toxic properties. Those toxins then concentrate in the zooplankton (animal plankton that feed on the plantlike phyotoplankton), shellfish and other marine species that graze on them.
Consider the dangerous diatom Pseudo-nitzschia(below). When ingested by humans, toxins from blooms of this single-celled algae can cause permanent short-term memory loss and in some cases death, according to Dr. Vera Trainer, an oceanographer with NOAA's Fisheries Marine Biotoxins Program. Laboratory studies show that when acidity (or pH) is lowered, Pseudo-nitzschiacells produce more toxin. When RV Melville researchers happened on a large bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia off the coast of Point Sur in California, where pH levels are already low, they were presented with a rare opportunity, explains Trainer, to see if their theory “holds true in the wild.”
Multiple phytoplankton populations became the subjects of deck-board experiments throughout the Melville’s 26-day cruise, which began in mid-May and finished last week.
Another worrisome substance is domoic acid, a neuro-toxin produced by a species of phytoplankton. Washington State has a long history of domoic acid outbreaks. The toxin accumulates in mussels and can wind up in humans. “Changes in the future ocean could increase the levels of domoic acid in the natural population,” says Professor Charles Trick, a biologist with Western University in Ontario, and one of the RV Melville researchers. .
During their nearly month-long cruise, researchers observed the most intense upwelling in California, which is typical for spring and early summer. Upwelling may increase off the coasts of Oregon and Washington in mid-late summer and fall. The research team took multiple measurements and water samples off all three coasts in waters of both low and high pH. Part of their hypothesis is that concentrations of essential fatty acids are lower when pH is low. They need to establish what exactly “lower'” means, but the bottom line is that fewer essential fatty acids means a less nutritional diet for fish and other organisms.
If the interaction between CO2, ocean acidity and nutrient supply to phytoplankton and other ocean-going creatures isn't something you can wrap your head around, try this: Every second breath you take is due to phytoplankton. Those single cells generate the lion’s share of the world's breathable oxygen so they are vitally important to our global ecosystem.

The RV Melville is owned by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The research was funded with a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, which underwrites approximately 24 percent of all government-supported basic research being conducted by American colleges and universities.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

$1 Million in Federal Funds For Oyster Restoration Heading To New York

This is excerpted from DNAinfo. You can see the article in its entirety by clicking here.  We continue to lobby our regulatory authorities for permission to do similar work here in Boston Harbor.  

Federal Grant Will Help Restore New York's Jamaica Bay Rebuild Oysters and Wetlands

 Three projects for the bay — including one to restore oysters — won grants from the federal government.
Millions Awarded to Support Restoration Projects for Jamaica Bay
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BROAD CHANNEL — More than $16 million has been slotted for a series of projects that will help protect and revitalize the city's coastline, including one that will help fund the restoration of Jamaica Bay's oyster population and wetlands.
The grants, part of $100 million given out for projects along the Atlantic coast,were announced Monday by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and are funded through the billions of dollars allocated for recovery after Hurricane Sandy.
"We are taking the lessons learned from this natural disaster to help local communities strengthen natural barriers between themselves and major storms such as Sandy that can cause major flooding and other damage,” Jewell said in a statement.
Three of the winning projects in New York City will help strengthen and restore Jamaica Bay, including replanting wetlands grass in Broad Channel.
The project to restore oysters received a $1 million grant.
Oysters — which up until the early 1900s thrived in Jamaica Bay — can clean the water in the bay and local activists and environmental groups have been working to restore them.
The plan is to have the oysters available for consumption at some point, but it is not clear when.
"Jamaica Bay is enormously important...because it's a natural lab and a classroom for millions of students right here in the greater New York, New Jersey communities," Jewell said after participating in planting wetlands grass with students from P.S. 47. 
That project received more than $4 million, and more money will also go into restoring 11 acres of salt marsh at Spring Creek Park.
Don Riepe, a member of the American Littoral Society who watches the area as the Jamaica Bay Guardian, said the announcement was a "great day for the bay."
He noted that the money, which also include additional funds from private groups and city agencies, "is a lot more than we're used to seeing coming into the bay."
"We're glad that all the state, federal and local interests and stakeholders are working together now to do this," he said.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Maryland Oyster Reef Planting Program Continues to Grow.

This is excerpted from the Maryland Star Democrat and an article by Josh Bollinger. You can see the original article here. 

This is a great example of community involvement with camps and other organizations raising oysters for eventual placement.  The article also talks about the growth of the program, illustrating the community support for creating a living sea-bottom. We will be mentioning a similar  program for Massachusetts in our next meeting with the Commonwealth's Division of Marine Fisheries.

Oyster reef plantings underway.


EASTON — It’s planting season again for the Marylanders Grow Oysters program.“The program is helping oysters and also helping communities around the Bay,” said Chris Judy, manager of the Marylanders Grow Oyster Program.
Started in 2008 by DNR in the Tred Avon River, the program relies on volunteers to grow oysters in cages hung off their docks in Chesapeake Bay tributaries.
Volunteers get oyster spat on shells, provided by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences Horn Point Laboratory and the Oyster Recovery Partnership, around September and let them grow throughout the fall and all winter long. The volunteers occasionally clean the cages by knocking off any sediment collected on them.
The program has grown over the years to include 30 tributaries where oysters from 7,500 cages will be planted this year, an increase from around 850 cages in its first year, Judy said.
Come this time of year, local tributary coordinators will organize a day to pick up the cages from each volunteer’s dock, take the oysters to a roundup point and ship them out to a dedicated section of the tributary to plant them on the best available bottom for growing.
Chesapeake Bay “Advance and Protect” Oyster Reef Recovery Initiative, an organization started by Easton-born Scott Eglseder, had its oyster roundup day on Thursday, June 5.
Judy said the Oyster Reef Recovery Initiative doesn’t fit the typical mold of coordinators with MGO, in that the organization has growers based out of multiple tributaries on the Eastern Shore, as opposed to just centered around one tributary.
Its volunteers brought 326 cages worth of oysters from 84 growers to Easton Point and loaded them in buckets onto DNR boats. From there, the oysters were taken out to just south of Marker 11 on the Tred Avon River to a sanctuary named Orem.
Judy estimated there were 70 to 80 shells in each cage, 375 oysters per cage with about five spat on each shell, bringing the total to about 122,000 oysters planted in the Tred Avon River on Thursday.
But, that’s just one organization’s growers. Judy said there are 170 growers in the Tred Avon River alone, which is planted by DNR since that’s the original location where it started the project.
A number of other local MGO coordinations have planted their oysters, like Pecometh Camp and Retreat Ministries, which is located on the Chester River in Centreville.
In May, Pecometh Camp and Retreat Ministries planted four cages of spat on shells in the Lankford Bay, which is at the southern end of Chester River.
The oysters were growing since October, 2013. While the oysters were growing, Pecometh’s day campers did experiments in which they observed the oysters filter water, and examined water turbidity.
Megan Shitama, retreat programs coordinator at Pecometh Camp and Retreat Ministries, said the experiments were a great “hands-on thing to do with the kids.”
Judy said the efforts of all MGO’s volunteers are paying off.
”What we see in the areas we plant, say, a quarter acre to an acre in size ... we’ve seen population increases up to tenfold,” he said.
When there’s an abundant population of oysters in a tributary, the oysters will help filter and clean the water where they’re planted.
But, that’s not the only good they bring to a tributary.
”They attract a lot of other life, so you’re developing this rich reef ecosystem,” Judy said. “So you have the ecological component of all the other organisms growing with the oysters, you’ve got fish that come to the reef, because it’s now what they call live bottom, and you’ve got the filter.”
Judy said the hatchery oysters from Horn Point typically grow in clumps, with anywhere between three and 12 per shell in a clump.
He said that creates a “clumped ecology” that provides a three-dimensional relief to the bottom. Instead of one oyster lying flat on the bottom, the clumped oysters provide extra habitat for small reef organisms to live.
In its 20th year, the Oyster Recovery Partnership planted 175 million oysters on 55 acres in the Bay in May.
ORP’s oysters were planted in Harris Creek, which is the largest oyster restoration project underway along the East Coast, according to ORP.
“This is an exciting time for oysters,” ORP Executive Director Stephan Abel said. “Oysters are at the center of major water restoration efforts in the Bay and nationwide. Hatcheries are raising billions of oysters to build sanctuaries and boost aquaculture.”
Abel also said restaurants have discovered that serving sustainable raised oysters attracts customers and strengthens their businesses.
While Abel said there is still much work to be done with oyster restoration, government, environmental, seafood and business communities have produced “remarkable results” with the partnerships created that work toward strengthening the oyster population.
“We are demonstrating that working together we can make a difference,” Abel said.
Judy said on Saturday, June 7, three other Bay tributaries are set to be planted — the Severn River, Rock Creek and the Nanticoke River.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Talk on Using Oysters to Protect Coastal Towns from Sea Level Rise Wednesday Night in Newbury

Employing Nature for Storm Surge Protection
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Film & Speaker Series, Spring 2014

Wednesday Series on the topic of Sea Level Rise 

Change of Venue!
The first few programs in our Spring Film & Speaker Series 2014 exceeded the audience capacity at theParker River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Because of this, we are relocating our next two programs.
They will be at the 
Newbury Elementary School, a.k.a. the Round School, 63 Hanover St, Newbury.
Directions: From Newburyport: South on Route 1, first left after traffic circle at light.
Enter main door. Doors open at 6:30 PM. The programs will start promptly at 7 PM.
Wednesday, June 4th at the Newbury Elementary School, 63 Hanover Street, Newbury.
Doors open at 6:30 PM. Program begins promptly at 7 PM.

Anamarija Frankić
Director of the Green Harbors Project, UMass Boston
Using Oysters to Protect Towns and Cities
From Sea Level Rise
Dr. Anamarija Frankić is a founder and director of the Green Harbors Project, a research professor at UMass Boston, and an adjunct professor at the Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography, Split, Croatia. She is a Biomimicry Educational Fellow and a Fulbright Scholar. Her educational background in biology, ecology, limnology and marine science, guides her interdisciplinary work in coastal and watershed ecosystem restoration. She has focused on applying science in coastal ecosystems conservation and management nationally and internationally.
In 2008, Anamarija and her students established the Green Boston Harbor Project to discover how urban harbors can become healthy, wealthy and sustainable, right here and now. She initiated and established the "Living Labs" as part of the applied science education where students and local communities are able to "learn and teach by doing" biomimicry, applying nature's wisdom for sustainable future; her premise is that "our environment sets the limits for sustainable development".
Listen to a 2012 interview with Anamarija Frankić about biomimicry on PRI's Living on Earth.
Storm Surge  is grateful for the support of its educational programming provided by our sponsors:
Noah's Ark
Life Boat