Thursday, January 31, 2013

Like Oysters? Like the Sea? Summer Job in Virginia


The Oyster Aquaculture Training Program (OAT) administered by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center is seeking another round of applicants for the 2013 season.  This is an opportunity to learn through an intensive, hands-on program, working alongside researchers throughout the 2013 oyster hatchery season - and getting paid while doing it.  This is not your typical VIMS summer job – it’s a unique opportunity not requiring any previous experience or education in biology.  This and more information is available at .

Applications are accepted online at W&M (  and must include a cover letter stating interest in oyster aquaculture.  The cover letter is a key criterion for selection that must emphasize level of interest and relevance, not necessarily prior experience or education.  The Oyster Aquaculture Training Program limits the number of participants to 4 in order to provide a one-on-one learning environment.
Applications are due February 15, 2013.

For more information, contact: 
Debbrah Pelata, ABC Business Manager, 804-684-7711,
Or Amanda Chesler, 804-684-7301,

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Barbara Lynch Supporter of Oyster Restoration Honored

In the January 2013 issue of Food Arts, a restaurant industry trade magazine, Barbara Lynch is honored with the prestigious Silver Spoon award for Sterling performance. The Boston Chef/Restaurateur "whose inspiring achievements during both the best and worst of economic times have redrafted the blueprint for fine dining management..."
Barabara Lynch Restaraunteur  Oyster Restoration Supporter
Barbara Lynch (photo from Food Arts)
The Food Arts write up contains a profile that is quite inspiring. She emerged from the South Boston housing projects she went on to work under Todd English and then to establishing No.9 Park, B&G oysters, Menton and others.
Food Arts January 2013
We came to know her as B&G Oysters reached out to MOP to support oyster restoration with the Oyster International Event in May 2008. Since then that oyster fest has grown as well as our participation in it. We advanced to recycling oyster shell that has been used in  projects in Wellfleet and Boston.

Mass Oyster congratulates her on her success and complements her on the fine staff she has groomed as they area  joy to work with. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Great Farm to Plate Oyster Video

Richard Rush publishes the Oyster Information Newsletter. He  drew our attention to this terrific video that follows oysters from a farm in British Columbia to a restaurant in Vancouver.
The video speaks for itself.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Harvard Square Old Map Shows Oyster Bank

One of the challenges of discussing oyster restoration in Massachusetts and Boston in particular is that the oysters have been gone so long that there is little historic memory of them. After seeking it out we have found extensive evidence of large oyster reefs and populations.

As a result, it is exciting when we come across another bit for the historic record that sheds a bit of light on the forgotten era, when oysters were an abundant and freely available source of protein for all.

In Cambridge's Winthrop Square there is a Peet's Coffee cafe and immediately outside it a plaque discussing the settlement of Newtowne, which later grew into Harvard Square. It begins with a map of the area as it looked in Colonial times before there was extensive fill. On the map below you can see how the coast is uneven as winding tidal rivers ran through coastal marsh.Charlestown and Boston are still peninsulas and the Charles River Bay is significantly wider before it was filled extensively to make the land that now supports MIT and the Back Bay.

Topographic map of Boston and Cambridge in the 1600's
Dots on Map of early Cambridge lead to the location of Newtowne, which was centered on Winthrop Square. The dotted path on the river ends at this location.

This map shows the settlement as it was in the 1600's with Harvard as a single building on top. But what is particularly interesting is the legend on the road leading to the right or Southeast on this map. We have highlighted it in the third picture below.

Map of Early Cambridge, Harvard and Oyster References.
Map of early Cambridge Massachusetts with reference to the Oyster Bank

The picture below shows an enlargement of the road. The legend reads Highway to the Oyster Bank. This is yet again another piece of history pointing to the large presence of oysters here in Colonial Times.

Map of Early Cambridge with Oyster reference
Cambridge Map close up of the Highway to the Oyster Bank.
Below is the full presentation on this topic we maintain on slideshare.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Big Rock Oyster Company in the Press and Goes Live on the Web

Big Rock Oyster Company has been a helpful supporter of MOP and our mission of restoring oysters to the estuaries of Massachusetts. Aaron and his team have hosted tours of their farm, provided oysters for our events and even talented shuckers to open them.We were pleased to see that they have opened a web-site as their farm is significant with over 3 million oysters. You can visit their site and order oysters or their popular raw bar by clicking on the name above or in the links section on the right of this page.

Mass Oyster Restoration Group Tours Big Rock Oyster Co in Dennis MA
Big Rock Oyster Co During July Tour for Mass Oyster

We were pleased to see an article in the Wall Street Journal describing Jim Ferry who works at Big Rock as a second career. Jim is a former management consultant and executive who has found his second calling at the East Dennis farm.  Says Jim "I love working outside in a beautiful setting alongside some the nicest, most interesting, hardest-working people I've ever met."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Oyster Reef Restoration Talk Very Informative

Last night MOP sent a delegation to Dr. Jonathan Grabowski's talk on the Eastern Oyster. It was a very interesting evening due the historic location and the fascinating talk. 

Map of Nahant Peninsula
Nahant Peninsula Off of Lynn, Mass

The  Marine Science Center of Northeastern University is located on a spit of land at the end of the spit of land that is Nahant. The talks was given in a room that was part of a bunker built during World War 2 that housed 16 inch cannons like those that would be used on a battle ship. Around Boston there were a number of siting towers such that if an attacking Navy were to approach Boston Harbor, they could quickly and accurately locate the enemy vessels, target them and send enormous shells to welcome them. Because the Peninsula is far out to sea, the Nahant guns could eliminate the ships before they were in firing range of metropolitan Boston. 

Those guns were never used in battle. However, when they were fired in testing, the report noise broke many windows around the town. A local gentleman attending the event told me of this and that the location is open once a year for a full tour.

Map of World War 2 Gun Emplancement Nahant Mass
Map of East Point Gun Emplacement Nahant

Dr. Grabowski's talk (THE EASTERN OYSTER: AN ICONIC FISHERY AND VALUABLE HABITAT) was terrific in that he shared with the audience a history of the oyster fishery, the environmental value of oyster reef and his experience with oyster reef restoration. Some of his restored reefs in the Carolinas are as much as 14 years old. 

He discussed how theoyster reefs that were once prevalent from NH to Texas rose up to 30 feet from the bottom. These reefs were documented as hazards to ships in a number of areas including the Carolinas and Boston. Those reefs not only supported oysters who grew-up on the shells of their predecessors, but also, they provide shelter to other creatures who hide in the nooks in crannies. Over-time those mountains were reduced to molehills by ever more sophisticated dredging techniques. As a result the coastal habitat became degraded and there is less biodiversity.  

He also gave a timeline for when the native oyster reefs were effectively fished out. The oyster reef infrastructure was eliminated from North to South. After this time commercial growers would import seed oysters, grow them out and then harvest them for market when they reached suitable size.
  • Massachusetts 1820
  • New York 1830
  • Chesapeake 1894
  • Georgia 1908
Globally over 95% of the world's oyster habitat has been eliminated. He pointed out that man is very good at capturing a target that does not move. 

Dr. Grabowski was unaware of any significant specific natural oyster reef in the state. However, he felt there might be some in Wellfleet. He did have an oyster reef restoration project in Ipswich that will be interesting to learn more about. 

He shared with us the longitudinal data on oyster reef he created in North Carolina. His team built the reef by laying down shell and relying on natural spat to settle on it. (This technique has been used recently in Wellfleet.) In the ensuing 14 years it had tripled in area and grown from 6 inches deep to 30 inches deep.   
He then presented some ways that academicians could think about the value of a hectare of oyster reef.
  • favorable impact on fish harvest $4,123 per year.
  • nitrogen removal $7,000 per year
The information aptly illustrated that oyster reef is a valuable habitat and that oyster reef restoration is well worth pursuing. .     

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Upcoming Talks About The Importance of Oysters, Oyster Restoration and Boston Harbor

The Winter Season is shaping up to have some interesting talks on oysters and Boston Harbor. The first two will be at the Marine Science Center of Northeastern University located at 430 Nahant Road, In Nahant,MA.

Dr. Jonathan Grabowski
Marine Science Center, Northeastern University

Dr. Peter Rosen, Associate Professor
Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Northeastern University

At the Boston Public Library there is a lecture series on local history at the main branch on Boylston Street.

Wednesday, March 13, at 6 p.m.
 Department of Conservation and Recreation Archaeologist Ellen Berkland presents the history of the Harbor Islands and explains why it can be considered a neighborhood. Wednesday, March 13, at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, March 27, at 6 p.m.
Suzanne Gall Marsh shares stories of the Boston Harbor Islands in her talk “Being a Genealogy Detective for Harbor Islands Stories.” Wednesday, March 27, at 6 p.m.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Interesting Article on Dermo Oyster Disease

Dermo is one of the two major diseases that affect the Eastern Oyster- Crassostrea Virginica. It along with MSX have been plagues to the population. This article on Dermo and how it is more active in oysters who have less oxygen is taken from the Shorelines Blog that is maintained by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. We find it noteworthy in that one of the conclusions and implications for oyster restoration is that high concentrated populations of oysters may be better able to withstand this pressure as they reduce the concentration of phytoplankton driving the phenomemon. The original article was posted by Kristen Minogue in September 2012. We have excerpted the photos and text from there.

Oyster infected with dermo.
Breitburg and her lab have spent the last three years examining Eastern oysters infected with Dermo, a slow but deadly disease whose impact in the Chesapeake Bay accelerated in the 1980s. Dermo is caused by a microscopic parasite called Perkinsus marinus that is acquired as oysters feed.  Once inside, it multiplies until hundreds of thousands of parasites take over the oyster’s body.  Even moderately infected oysters suffer slower growth and a diminished ability to reproduce.

Oyster Researcher  Dermo Chesapeake
Denise Breitburg on the waters on a beautiful early morning.

Some of the biggest danger zones for oysters with Dermo are the ones suffering from low oxygen.  Without enough oxygen, oysters’ capacity to fight infection drops.  The problem with shallow water in some parts of the Bay—and many estuaries around the world—is that their oxygen levels swing drastically.  Oxygen concentrations tend to soar during the day only to plummet to hypoxic conditions at night.  This phenomenon, known as diel-cycling hypoxia, is common in shallow waters where nutrients are high and winds and currents too low to mix the water well.

Opening Oysters for Research on oxygen and Dermo
Technician Rebecca Burrell dissecting the oysters.

“We don’t tend to find oysters in areas that are continuously low in oxygen,” Denise Breitburg says.  “But we do find them in areas that have these big day-night swings.  So it’s very likely that this form of low oxygen is really problematic.” says Breitburg.

Nutrients streaming off the land fuel the wildest fluctuations.  While the sun is shining, massive algal blooms swollen by excess nutrients photosynthesize and flood the water with oxygen.  But at night, when photosynthesis stops, plants, microbes, and animals continue to respire, depleting the oxygen in the water and releasing CO2—just as humans do when they breathe.  Ideal summer oxygen concentrations in the Bay hover around 7 mg/L.  At night some places drop to near zero.

Breitburg’s team is working to discover exactly how these fluctuations impact the disease and the benefits oysters give the Bay.  Field experiments they conducted already showed that oysters in areas with low nighttime oxygen had a higher risk of Dermo infection.  Now they are testing it in lab.

Oyster Tank for Gathering Data for Oyster Restoration
Dissolved Oyygen Oyster Mortality Tank
In a laboratory ominously named the “Room of DOOM” (Dissolved Oxygen Oyster Mortality), they are manipulating oxygen and pH (acidity) levels in 30 oyster aquaria.  Each tank contains young, uninfected 1-year-old oysters.  Another tank contains Dermo-infected 4-year-old oysters.  The lab pumps water from the infected tank into the healthy tanks to see how many healthy oysters will contract the disease. Meanwhile five gas cylinders (normal air, air without carbon dioxide, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen) enable them to recreate the cycles Bay oysters experience in nature.
At first the team looked only at oxygen and saw that Oysters exposed to low oxygen, even for only a few hours each night, had much higher infection rates than ones that enjoyed constant, healthy levels.  They also filtered less water, hampering their ability to help purify the Bay of excess algae.
This summer the lab is investigating a second piece of the puzzle: acidity.  More acidic water also can reduce oysters’ ability to produce disease-fighting chemicals.  Like oxygen, it operates on a day-night cycle.  CO2 from nighttime respiration can raise the acidity of shallow water tenfold.
Actually helping oysters recover will take a three-part strategy, according to Breitburg.  First, protect oysters from fishing.  Second, reduce nutrient runoff into the Bay, since it exacerbates the oxygen and acid cycles.  Finally, restore large quantities of oysters in shallow areas, where the oysters themselves could clear the water enough to help fix the problem.
“During periods of low oxygen, oysters are filtering less, so they can’t provide ecosystem services important to the Bay’s health,” she says. “But restoring oyster populations could improve water quality in shallow Bay waters.”  
Map of Cape Cod Highlighting Wellfleet Massachusetts
Map of Wellfleet Massachusetts

Research being conducted in a propagation zone in Wellfleet Massachusetts is actually demonstrating those water quality improvements in a real life situation. We hope to be adding a post with more details on that in the very near future.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Connecticut Oyster Restoration Fostering Growth of MSX Resistant Strains

This story by Hilary Kenyon is excerpted from a publication called the Dredge, which is published by the Connecticut Sea Grant at the University of Connecticut. We found the selected article of interest as it discusses how they are selectively breeding oysters resistant to MSX. MSX is  a parasite that has been a problem for growers on the East Coast for a couple decades.It was first noted in 1957 in The Chesapeake Bay and had a major spread in the 1980's. I like the article as it involves a collaboration  between a commercial grower Norm Bloom and academia to foster the development of healthier stronger oyster strains. 

Having reserves of wild oysters who can grow and reproduce will enable that population to become more  disease resistant over time through natural selection. In contrast oysters who are raised commercially and harvested before they are challenged by the disease and allowed to reproduce due not have the opportunity to strengthen the gene pool  through natural selection.

Here is Hilary's Article.

The protozoan parasite Haplosporidium nelsoni (MSX) is responsible for considerable oyster mortality in Connecticut. Following the devastating outbreak of 1997, there were no commercially significant sets on record and a period of low production followed. Such a profound gap in natural oyster sets struck a blow to the industry. In response, Connecticut Sea Grant has provided funding for a research project that aims to devise a technique for enhancing the State’s natural oyster beds which provide the seed that the vast majority of the industry depends upon.

In the case of a disease epizootic, or during a time with little to no natural recruitment, this method would provide an economic cushioning for the oyster industry. Headed by Dr. Inke Sunila, Shellfish Pathologist from the Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Aquaculture (DA/BA), the research employs a biodegradable mussel netting or sock used to deploy remote-set hatchery reared oysters. The idea behind the project is that the socking provides a degree of protection from predators.

Oyster Restoration using spat on shell in bags.
Inka Sunila with remote set oysters in biodegradable netting. (photo by Inike Sunila)

Inke, a brawny woman who hails from Finland, is the brainpower behind the project. With a
diligent work ethic and lifetime of experience with shellfish, she has adopted the remote setting technique for a novel purpose – to boost the seed supply for Connecticut’s commercial industry.

Conventional culturing practices involve hatchery raised oyster larvae settling on tiny shell fragments. This produces single (cultchless) oysters that require a nursery stage, elevated from the sea floor in either submerged cages or bags. Remote setting, however, circumvents this phase and allows oyster larvae to settle on full shells as they do in the wild. Just as natural set, settling on cultch enables hatchery-raised oysters to grow directly on the bottom. In simple terms, remote setting simulates Connecticut’s existing practices of collecting set from natural oyster beds and transplanting them to be grown on private leases. There is the added benefit of selective breeding—potential for increased oyster survival and growth. The “Clinton” strain of oysters has shown significant resilience and was chosen for the experiments. “Clinton” broodstock were obtained from Clinton, Connecticut following the MSX-outbreak of 1997 and have been selectively bred overnumerous generations. Using previously developed hatchery techniques, Karen Rivera and Kate Blacker of the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative conditioned and spawned the “Clinton” oysters. Larval oysters were then allowed to settle on cultch and grown in mesh cages at the hatchery prior to deployment. On a sunny afternoon in early June, I arrived at the Bureau of Aquaculture lab in Milford. As an undergraduate student researcher from the University of Connecticut serving as the coprincipal investigator for the project, I accompanied Inke to the Norm Bloom & Son oyster fishing dock in Norwalk. 

To prepare the shellfish grounds for the experiment, the first order of business was to remove existing shellfish,predators and other marine fauna from the lease.This is done by dredging. Captained by Jim Bloom, the dual-armed dredging boat repeatedly dragged along the sea floor and lifted the load onto the deck. An enormous pile of oysters, clams, snails, crabs, and other creatures quickly mounted as I scurried around the deck collecting and identifying specimens. When the pile towered over ten feet, the captain retired the dredge and headed back to the dock. The lease was then ready for the project and the researchers had a clear picture of what species they should expect to inhabit the area.

A few weeks later, Tessa Getchis, aquaculture extension specialist from Connecticut Sea Grant, met Inke and me at the lab. It was the day we set aside to mark the experimental grid. Like all scientific research, however, a seemingly simple task proved to be more difficult in the field. In this case, the area was about two feet deeper at low tide than the charts show. Though not a problem for the oysters, it was a difficulty for two women in wetsuits. As our feet barely grazed the bottom, Tessa and I awkwardly moon bounced along as we measured and buoyed the transects within the lease.

The next day, Kate arrived at the Milford lab with her rumbling red truck filled with bags of
oyster seed. She proudly released the tailgate and carefully lifted a mesh bag from the truck bed. We immediately lit up as Kate placed the bag on the outdoor picnic table. Only a few millimeters in length, the oysters clung to the shells upon which they had settled.

“They look amazing!” Inke exclaimed, as I examined a single cultch shell covered in baby oysters. Tessa, nodded in approval. At this point, our all-women research team had gotten off to an assuring start and eagerly sorted the oysters for deployment. Not more than a few hours later, we reloaded the truck and set off for the Bloom oystering dock. The plan was to manually deploy the oysters on the lease, now marked with bamboo poles and cinder blocks. In due time, the oysters were released over the boat edge: half with the biodegradable netting, and half without. Two types of netting were utilized as potential predator control, one made of pure cotton, the other with a polyester base material. Both served as predator deterrents in the early weeks after deployment when growth is most critical. Bare (seedless) cultch was also deployed on the lease to serve as a comparison to natural oyster recruitment for this

Oyster restoration spat on shell
Photo of oysters three months after deployment
shows extremely rapid growth and numerous
fouling organisms. (Photo by Inke Sunila)

In order to track growth and survival rates, the researchers have begun a monthly sampling of the oysters that will continue into the next year. They predict that this approach of using biodegradable netting for oyster bottom culture has the potential to promote Connecticut oyster production in many ways. In addition to filling the gap between natural oyster sets, this form of remote-setting disease resistant oysters could potentially enhance currently unproductive natural beds and provide further economic prosperity. In terms of ecological significance, establishing successful beds will also promote improved water quality and overall improved biodiversity and health of Long Island Sound.