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.