Thursday, December 8, 2011

Early Map of Entrance to the Charles Shows Modest Change, Oysters in Health

1880 Map of Boston Shows Modest Change at Mouth of Charles

People often ask us how we know oysters will live at the mouth of the Charles when so much has changed in the ecosystem since Colonial times. Well, we don't know for sure. But we have done a fair amount of research to establish the extensive prevalence of oysters in the historic record. And the Charles River has changed a great deal. While the extensive fill of the Back Bay is widely known and talked about, there also was extensive fill on the Cambridge side as well.

This interesting map from the University of Texas Library Maps Room popped up on StumbleUpon. The Map shows the outline and contours of Colonial Boston and the Boston and the outline of 1880. The area around the mouth of the Charles where the oyster pilot is had seen modest changes. Our oysters are in the vicinity of the bridge that is furthest to the right. The bridges have moved and  North End Beach has been filled in and now has a pool. This area also has a hockey rink, athletic fields and boccie courts. (There are two interesting asides here. One is that the famous molasses flood occurred in this spot in 1919 when a huge tank of the sticky liquid burst and drowned 21 people. And the famous Brinks Job Heist took place in a still standing parking garage on the corner of Prince and Commercial Street.)

Below is a 1922 map of the North End from the Bromley Atlas. This image came from Community Heritage Maps. You can still see the North End Beach marked clearly in green. At low tide you can still see a sandy spit of bottom off of the seawall in this location.

The other major change is the conversion of the Charles River basin with the construction of the lower Charles River Dam in 1978. The dam is managed such that water upstream of it is kept fresh although a plume of salt water on the bottom can sometimes creep far up river in during the summer months. How this affects the dynamics of the tidal flows is hard to say, (although it probably would make up an interesting engineering/consulting interview question.)
Plaque from the Lower Charles River Dam. Today this dam is to the right of the bridge that is second from the right in the map above. The remnants of that bridge can be seen when walking across the locks at the dam.

So, we have the feeling that the topography and the tide levels have not changed dramatically. The water flows and salinity may have shifted somewhat, but exactly how is hard to say.

Premium Fitness Website Service Profiles Oysters Favorably

There is a new fast-growing website for physical fitness buffs called InsideTracker that uses a host of blood markers to help people manage their diets to maximize athletic performance and physical age. They gave oysters a favorable review.

Oysters are truly a wonder of the world when it comes to nutrition.  They may be small, but are packed with tons of nutritious value and can be prepared in almost any way.  Oysters are a good source of Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Protein, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese and Selenium. Overall, for as small as oysters are, they do prove to be extremely beneficial in our diets. However, they are high in sodium and cholesterol.

Mass Oyster Project Hat in London's Underground

MOP Volunteer Chris Yim in the tube.
To order your hat for $15 drop an email to and we'll arrange to get you one.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wetlands for Boston’s Fort Point Channel-- MOP Hat Spotted in Washington DC.

Wetlands for Boston’s Fort Point Channel--

Through the Green Boston Harbor Project we learned that floating wetlands may be introduced into Fort Point Channel in a project with ShiftBoston. This urban water body suffers from numerous urban run-off inflows. MOP has tried to bring water-cleansing oysters to the area for some time and even submitted a petition to the Governor.

We regard this initiative favorably as it brings activity to the area and can have only positive effects. We are anxious to learn more about this exciting project.

To learn more about the area you can view our Fort Point Channel Survey presentation on Slideshare. 

Boston's Fort Point Channel- A Photographic Tour

If you are a student interested in becoming involved, there could be an opportunity for you. Here is the position listing we received.

SHIFTboston is currently seeking one Landscape Architecture and one Architecture student to work with the UMass Boston Green Boston Harbor Project studeent lab as part of a multi-disciplined team to design and implement a biomimetic strategy to improve the environmental conditions of Boston's Fort Point Channel by establishing a floating wetland system.

Tasks include:
- Research and analysis of the Fort Point Channel including its water quality, hydrology, site suitability and modeling.

- Bi-weekly reviews with student lab at Umass Boston GBH.

- Coordination and documentation via email and online conferencing.

The ideal candidate will be:

- A student seeking innovative experience in ecology and biomimetic studies.

- A person who is interested in learning more about the ecology of Boston Harbor and the Fort Point Channel and passionate about improving it.

- A person who works well both independently and within a team. The ideal candidate will also be comfortable working outside his/her area of expertise to both explore new and innovative concepts.

What we give in return for help:

- Free entry to any of our events and competitions.
Attend all of our events and submit to our design competitions for free.

- Internship credits.
We provide IDP and university architectural internship education credits (pending school approval).

- Credit as project team member.
The project is likely to first become an exhibition and then perhaps, implemented. All participants will be included as part of the project team in exhibition and implementation.

To Apply:
Please email a very brief letter outlining your qualifications as they apply to the task and ideal candidate lists above. Please also include your full name, the name of your university, degree and specific area of study. Please email your application to:

About the Green Boston Harbor Project (GBH):
Our mission is to enhance the coastal ecosystem stewardship through research, education and outreach projects. Our goal is to establish a green urban harbor that lives within ecological and human limits. For more information please visit:

Mass Oyster Project in Washington DC.

The pictures keep flowing in. A MOP hat was spotted in front of the Nation’s Capital. Meeting a Celebrity? Visiting a land mark? Join the crew who are sending us photos of their Oyster Hats for the blog. 

This young man posed in front of the Capital Building in his Mass Oyster Hat.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ocean Acidification Recycled Oyster Shell Wellfleet Maine Job Opportunity Ten Lobster Facts

Ocean Acidification

Ocean acidification is a rising issue and it is reportedly even affecting steamer clams here in New England.

Every day, oceans do us a huge favor by absorbing about a third of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities.

Carbon dioxide lowers the pH of the oceans, causing them to become more acidic and corrosive. The basic chemistry is simple: as seawater at the surface of the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it forms carbonic acid, the same weak acid found in soda pop. Carbonic acid breaks down into hydrogen ions, which make water more acidic. Seawater is not technically an acid because it measures above 7 on the pH scale, but this excess carbon dioxide shifts the pH of the ocean farther towards the acidic end of the scale.

This reaction also robs the water of carbonate ions, which are important building blocks to many marine creatures including mussels, scallops, corals, sea urchins, barnacles, crabs, and lobsters. Even tiny plankton use carbonate ions to build shells and skeletons. As the concentration of that key building block drops in more acidic seas, those creatures must expend more energy to assemble the calcium carbonate minerals they need. As water grows even more corrosive, the creatures’ protective shells and structures can simply dissolve.

Economically there could be significant impacts as half of the US annual $4 billion in commercial fishing revenue is derived from crustaceans or shellfish.

An environmental group called Siightline put together a nice overview piece on the topic. To see the report that is more geared to the Pacific Northwest  click on this link. While it is more targeted for that region, the concepts are valid for here as well.

Recycled Shell at the Wellfleet Oyster Festival

Oyster shell for recycling in Wellfleet  Photo by B. Wigren
One of MOP's board members took this photo of the oyster shells that would be recycled at the Wellfleet Oyster Festival. It appears that immediate recycling without a drying period was permitted since the oysters all came from those waters and would not be bringing disease in from a new location. The shell serves two purposes. Many of the shells have spat (small baby oysters) attached to them so they are returning those young ones to grow. And second, the shell can serve as a substrate for spat from next years reproduction to settle on.  There is a large and significant volunteer force who makes this happen. Bravo!

Maine Job Opportunity

Mook Sea Farm, located in mid-coast Maine, is looking for a person to take over responsibility for microalgae production in our hatchery.  They seek a person who knows sterile technique, clean room operation, and is capable of maintaining axenic cultures on a commercial scale.  The position will be salaried and full time.  The person hired needs to be a “team player” and will be expected to also help out with other hatchery work, and when the hatchery is not running, to also work on the water.
Send resumes or questions to

Ten  Interesting Lobster Facts

One of our volunteers is at the School of Journalism at Boston University and they are putting together a web magazine on the water. While Kristen will soon be completing a piece on MOP the other content is very interesting as well. Below is a link to ten lobster facts that she put together. I thought mylobster IQ was fair, but was surprised to find how much more there was to learn. 

MOP brings us into contact with divers fairly frequently and one of them who dives for lobsters told me that there seemed to be two types when it comes to the traps. A portion could climb into the trap eat and find their way out. Another portion would go into the trap and be stymied, remaining inside until they were harvested.  Here is the question- Is our lobster industry creating an artificial selection process that is making the lobster population smarter by weeding out the less intelligent members?

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.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mass Oyster at the Acropolis! What Lives in an Oyster Reef?

MOP in Greece

MOP Volunteer Jake Levy sent us this photo of him attired in a MOP hat at the Acropolis. (Maybe this is why the blog has been getting so many hits from Greece!) He volunteered with us this summer and you may have the opportunity to meet him in person at our October 1st oyster placement. These hats also will be available at the Mayflower Brewery Oyster tasting on September 24th froom 3:30-6:00 pm.

MOP Volunteer Jake Levy at the Acropolis in Athens
Oysters in Greece

The ancient Greeks obtained most of their protein from fish, however they did occasionally consume oysters and turtles as well. Here is more on the Ancient Greek diet.

In recent times, true cultivation of shellfish in Greece has only begun in the last five years and is at present only concerned with one species, the Mediterranean mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis. All other species, and much of the mussel production, are still only fished from wild stocks. The situation is likely to change for two species, however, namely the European flat oyster, Ostrea edulis, and the clam, Venerupis decussatus (Fr. palourde, Gr. akivada).* Pressure on existing stocks of oysters, reflected in declining catches in the main fishery in Thermaikos Gulf, is a stimulus for steps to be taken to supplement ‘spatfall’, the collection of seed oysters from natural settlement. In the case of palourde, commercial pressure for increased production of this high value species is generating interest in its cultivation, methods for which are now evolving on a commercial scale in France, Spain and Italy. Interest in crustacean (penaeid shrimp) culture is at a similar level. Small lagoon fisheries exist for the native species, Penaeus kerathurus, and basic research on the maturation cycle of this species has been carried out. A commercial proposal has been made to establish a penaeid hatchery on the island of Skyros and the Ministry of Agriculture are considering a shrimp hatchery in their plans for state marine hatcheries.

The historical lack of interest in mollusc farming can be related to the absence of a home market for anything other than a small quantity of mussels and cockles (Cerastoderma edule). As well as being small, the market has a strong regional bias. Only in the north of the country is there an established tradition of eating molluscan shellfish, while in the major centre of population, Athens, molluscs are viewed with suspicion and are only offered by a minority of restaurants.

The oyster and palourde fisheries depend entirely on export markets in Spain and Italy, with some oysters going into France. Most of the oysters are dredged from Thermaic Gulf, south west of Thessaloniki, but here the catch has declined from about 2 000 t/year to just over 1 000 t. A smaller fishery yielding 150 t has developed in Stilida (Maliakos Gulf) over the last two years. About half of the national production of palourde come from a small area of inter-tidal beach near Alexandropoulis in the north east, which yields about 75 t/year. The remaining 75 t is drawn together for marketing by the same cooperative from small beds around the country, such as Stilida, and Geras Gulf (Lesvos). Some are sold from a shore on Salamis, close to Piraeus.

What lives in an oyster reef?

An oyster reef adds roughness or rugosity to the ocean bottom. And over 100 other species will use it for shelter. These smaller creatures, in turn serve as food sources for larger species such as bluefish and sea bass that fishermen covet.

We are going to start publishing photos of the species we find. Today's example came from Board member Ben Wigren.

On-line experts have told us this is a Rock Perch, yet Wikipedia says a Rock Perch is a "small bass"
This fingerling was taking shelter among our oysters. Is it truly a perch or a small bass as stated in the Wikipedia posting? In any case we hope to make homes for thousands of his brethren over the next few years. We have had fish as large as 8 inches in there. This photogenic fellow was returned to the waters a few moments later.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Volunteers Needed Saturday Oct 1, Oyster Growth Charts, Investing in Infrastructure,

Volunteers needed October 1st   

On October first at 1:00-4:00 we will be placing oysters on the bottom at the mouth of the Charles River.  This is a great opportunity to participate in an exciting and fun afternoon.  Kids will have the opportunity to see numerous creatures that inhabit our harbor including eels, small fish, crabs, and starfish.  We will be sorting the oysters and dropping them in a marked location. 

Please dress warmly as we will be on the water and cool breezes can blow.  We will have refreshments, gloves and hats for the volunteers. The oysters can be dirty so you may not want to wear your best clothes. To let us know you are coming please send an email to

Oyster Growth

We have finally found a way to post charts to this blog and we thought it would be good to share some information on growth. Below are two charts of growth of oysters that were first kept at Dorchester Yacht Club and are now at the mouth of the Charles. This small population is not on the bottom, but suspended in the water column. We have seen that oysters on the bottom are slower growing. They also have greater mortality due to predation.

Experienced oyster volunteer Megan Glenn provided valuable expertise.

The largest oyster in the cohort measured just over 100 millimeters.The fellow on the left is a European oyster that turned up in our container. They are found throughout the harbor and typically live in deeper water.

Investing In Our Coastline Is Cost Effective

A landmark report by Restore America's Estuaries (RAE) shows that coasts and estuaries are not only essential to the nation's economy, but that investments in coastal habitat restoration produce jobs in a cash-strapped, job-starved economy at a higher rate than many other sectors, including oil and gas and road-infrastructure.

The report, "Jobs & Dollars: Big Returns from Coastal Habitat Restoration," lays out a powerful case for government and private investment in the nation's coasts and estuaries, drawing on national and regional studies of coastal and estuarine  restoration projects and setting out its findings in restoration case studies. 

Key findings include:

  • Coastal habitat restoration--including wetland reconstruction and improvement; rebuilding depleted oyster beds; removal of obsolete dams, culverts, and other obstacles to fish passage; tree planting and floodplain restoration; and invasive species removal--typically create between 20 and 32 jobs for every $1 million invested. In comparison, road infrastructure projects on average create seven jobs per million.
  • Habitat restoration not only creates local jobs, it brings dollar to local businesses. In one of the report's case studies, a watershed restoration project in Oregon, 80% of monies invested in the project stayed in county; 90% stayed in state.
  • Restoration not only creates direct jobs, people using their skills and equipment to restore damaged wetlands and other similar projects, but also helps stimulate indirect jobs in industries that supply project materials such as lumber, concrete, and plant materials, and supports induced jobs in businesses that provide local goods and services, such as clothing and food, to restoration workers.
  • Finally, restoration projects generate other returns in the form of new jobs, increased tourism and tourist dollars, hunting and fishing revenues, tax revenues, and property values.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Big Weekend for Island Creek Foundation -Fun Oyster Events Helping Haiti

This is a big weekend for Duxbury's Island Creek Oysters, the remarkable organization that is continuing to drive growth in the town's fishery. On Friday the 9th, they are hosting a benefit for the Friends of Haiti. This is a continuation of their track record of philanthropy that includes activities in working on the Island of Zanzibar in Tanzania. I saw a terrific presentation on this at a shellfish restoration conference. An aquaculturist involved in the project discussed it at length and in detail. It was amazing to see the effort expended to overcome numerous obstacles. The crowd was mesmerized. To see the PowerPoint click here.

Map of Tanzania

The origins of the Haiti project stem from a visit in 2011. A team from Island Creek visited the Caribbean Harvest Foundation in Haiti to learn more about their challenges in aquaculture. By sustainably farming fish, Caribbean Harvest strives to re-make a domestic fishing industry, create jobs and provide nutrition and social programs for the people of Haiti. With the addition of the Friday night Friends for Haiti event, the Island Creek Oysters Foundation hopes to raise enough money to provide 40+ families (nearly half a village) with a Tilapia Farming Starter Kit, which will subsequently boost each family’s annual income from $400 per year to $3,800 per year.nearly half a village) with a Tilapia Farming Starter Kit, which will subsequently boost each family’s annual income from $400 per year to $3,800 per year.

Skip Bennett in the field.

To register for Friday's Haiti benefit you can visit this link. It should be an upscale evening on Duxbury Beach with a surfisde bonfire and dishes prepared by area celebrity chefs. Naturally, there will be an awesome rawbar.

On Saturday is the main festival at which 30,000 oysters are to be shucked by volunteer shuckers and consumed. Live music will be played all day including the headliner- Joe Bachman and the Crew. The oyster world raves about this event and after all the rain we have been having it should not be missed.

Friday, September 2, 2011

September 24th Beer and Oysters Tasting at Mayflower in Plymouth-- Oyster Shell Recycling Starting in Colorado-- Hemingway on Oysters

September 24th Beer Tasting at Mayflower Brewery in Plymouth, MA

MOP will be sponsoring a beer tasting on September 24th at the Mayflower Brewery at
12 Resnick Road
in Plymouth from 3:30-6:00 pm. There is a suggested donation of $10 per person.
We also will have Island Creek oysters for $1 each. 

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.

We also will be raffling off MOP merchandise in addition to having it available for sale.
To sign up go to our facebook page-, respond to this email, or email us
We look forward to seeing you there!

Oyster Shell Recycling in Colorado (?)

This spring we executed our first oyster shell recycling effort. and we learned a great deal and felt a keen sense of accomplishment. These programs are growing here in New England. The oyster shell from the Wellfleet and Island Creek Oyster Festivals will be reused to help sustain the species in restoration work. We were surprised to see it beginning in Denver!

Seattle Fish Company, together with Rappahannock Oysters and the Oyster Recovery Partnership , is proud to announce a brand-new oyster recycling initiative available to our customers. Rappahannock River Oysters is one of the premier oyster companies in the Chesapeake Bay. Travis, Ryan and their dedicated crew are innovators in the industry and have taken a lead on restoring the Chesapeake Bay to its former glory. For their efforts in the Bay and for producing amazing oysters, Food and Wine Magazine presented them with the coveted Tastemakers Award which recognizes spectacular talents who have changed the world of food and wine by age 35. The program will send used oyster shells back to the bay to become refuge and fertile oyster growing beds for future generations of oysters. James Wright of Seafood Business writes, “Living oysters are capable of filtering 40 to 60 gallons of seawater each day, improving the clarity and quality of intertidal waters by removing plankton, sediment, and excess nutrients. After shucking and slurping, their shells keep on giving, too.” Because oyster shells are such a limited natural resource, returning them to the Bay and its tributaries is critical. Recycled oyster shells are reused and replanted in the Bay with baby “spat” oysters attached. These “spat on shell” oysters are placed in sanctuary reefs and provide a natural habitat for new oysters and other marine life to grow. One used shell can host up to 30 individual baby oysters that will then grow naturally into clusters and repopulate sanctuary reefs.

Seattle Fish will provide a five gallon bucket and lid to discard empty oyster shells to all participating restaurants. As frequently as necessary, Seattle Fish will pick up the full buckets, provide an empty replacement bucket and lid, and ship the shells back to the Oyster Recovery Partnership in Maryland, where the shells will be cleaned, aged, and used for new oyster seeds to latch onto. The reused shells will then be recycled back into the water, helping to replenish the oyster supply. 

Great Oyster Quote from Hemingway
Richard Rush who publishes the Oyster Information Newsletter recently drew this to our attention.
Perhaps the most famous sentence about oysters in American literature come from a young Ernest Hemingway in his near biblical work about his life in Paris from 1921 to 1926. The book title comes from the opening title page. Says Hemingway: "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."

Early in the book, he is in a cafe and feeling a little lonely, jotting down a few notes. In his own words: "I closed up the story in the notebook and put it in my inside pocket and I asked the waiter for a dozen "portugueses" and a half- carafe of the dry white wine they had there." He had ordered a dozen Crassostrea angulata - the legendary oblong oysters said to have descended spontaneously from the sinking of a single oyster-laden ship from the orient in a harbor in Portugal.

On page 6, he professes his love for oysters in the famous sentence: "As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and make plans."

Sadly, the "Portuguese" oyster is rarity today in France. But the art of matching a perfect wine to any given oyster lives on. It is an ideal that we all share.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Acidity on the Sea Bottom May Impair Oyster Growth- the Answer? More Shell. Have a Raw Bar Come to You!

This article came in from a shellfish list serve we subscribe to. We have seen Professor Green talk of similar findings in Boston Harbor.

Killer Sediments
By Eric Scigliano
OnEarth Magazine
August 17, 2011

Mark Green is waiting out the tide on placid-looking Broad Cove, just north of Portland, Maine.  A lab tech and student assistant wait with him.  When the tide recedes, they’ll fan out with Green, an oceanographer at St. Joseph’s College in nearby Standish, Maine, across the mudflats and begin taking hundreds of sediment samples at precisely plotted points across the cove.

Green hopes that analyzing them will help flesh out what smaller samplings and lab experiments have already told him: that inshore sediments on the Atlantic seaboard are becoming acidic enough to kill the clams and oysters that inhabit them.

These samples will also give Green something else: a baseline for testing a simple remedy he’s devised to mitigate this effect and, just maybe, save the East Coast’s beloved shellfish industry . The acidity threat here is a mirror image of the one facing shellfish hatcheries on the Pacific coast.  There, acidic seawater wells up from the deep.  On the East Coast, the immediate threat comes not from carbon dioxide being absorbed into the seas, but from land, in the form of rich run-off from fertilized lawns, livestock pastures, and sewage overflows.

This nutrient bonanza feeds blooms of phytoplankton, tiny floating plants that then die, sink into the mud, and rot in an acidifying exhalation of carbon dioxide.
Broad Cove’s water is less than ideal but still alkaline enough for bivalve larvae to survive, but its much more acidic sediment has spelled dissolution and death for young bivalves trying to build their shells.  Clam larvae either burrow into this sediment and perish or recoil from it and float around until they’re gobbled by predators.  "You could have two to three hundred thousand clams setting per square meter here," Green says, "then come back a soon after and find nothing."

These effects on shelled creatures aren’t new; Green first noticed them in 1992, and humans have been fouling inshore waters for far longer than that.  But like ocean acidification itself, they had long gone unnoted.  Researchers trying to figure out what caused shellfish die-offs focused on pathogens and predators.  Green couldn’t convince them that young clams were actually dissolving in acidified sediment until he proved it in the lab.

But shellfish gatherers and growers, seeing their yields decline, have long wondered if something was rotten down in the muck.  "I suspect that in many areas of the East Coast, we’re seeing the impacts Mark is seeing," says Rhode Island oyster farmer and fisheries professor Bob Rheault, who is also Executive Director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association.

Rhealt even stumbled on the antidote that Green is proposing for these impacts, though he didn’t realize it at the time.  After a big die-off in 1991, he noticed that clams came roaring back on one patch of sediment where none had grown for 20 years: a midden where his crew regularly dumped their culled shells. Likewise, foragers have long known they should toss back the shells of the wild oysters they take, so new oysters can set on them.
Steamer clams are the only shellfish that can be harvested for consumption in Boston Harbor. Once harvested they are sent to a plant to live in clean water until harmful bacteria have been cleansed from their system.

Green suspected that the discards also provided another benefit.  Shells are composed of calcium carbonate, the main ingredient in Tums and Rolaids. Perhaps the discarded shells were buffering the sediments, making them less acidic?  He tested this hypothesis in the lab, using different forms of calcium carbonate.  Whole shells and marble chips didn’t work as well as shells ground to a fine grit: "We’ve gone through dozens of coffee grinders," he says with a laugh.

And gotten encouraging results.  Now, with a new grant from the National Science Foundation (which has given $1.2 million to his research over the course of a decade), Green is testing the approach at full scale in Broad Cove. He has also put his money where his research is.  He points to a small island out beyond the cove.  "After growing clams in the lab, I realized I like rearing these little guys.  So I got an oyster farm out there."

Green’s efforts to fend off acidification in sediments along the shoreline won’t stop sea life from crashing due to a worldwide increase in CO2; only a drastic reduction in carbon emissions can do that.  But it might enable growers like him to keep providing us with delicious clams and oysters for a few more decades -- if only to remind us of what we’ll miss when they’re gone.

Traveling Raw Bar Can Come to You.

A friend of MOP forwarded me word of this new enterprise and we thought it warranted sharing.

The R.Shucks Travelin’ Raw Bar is a veritable seafood restaurant on wheels, taking reservations now for your next dinner party, poolside cook out or nautical event.

You can contact Thomas and  he’ll source an array of fresh seafood—everything from littlenecks, hard clams, shrimp and up  to three kinds of oysters. Then, he’ll make the pilgrimage up from the Cape with raw bar in tow, set up in about 45 minutes and start shucking and serving.

He also willing to bring his 800-pound ice maker powered by a five-kilowatt generator. Which tends to come in handy when you’ve got throngs of people ravaging your home bar and need the ice to back up all the cocktails.

R.Shucks Travelin’ Raw Bar, available now for events, reserve at 888-774-8257 or email here