Thursday, June 27, 2013

Oyster Shell Recycling Taking Off- Restaurant News

This article was forwarded from a supporter of our shell recycling program. It focuses on activity in Washington DC. which is supporting the very active oyster restoration program in the Chesapeake Bay. Seeing the huge numbers of shells being recycled here is inspiring. the case for it is strong- that may be why our program is growing so fast.

Recycling oyster shells benefits restaurants, environment

Each week diners slurp down more than 1,200 dozen oysters at Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C., and the 13 other surrounding area restaurants owned by Clyde’s Restaurant Group. Until recently, all those oyster shells were tossed in the trash and hauled off to the nearest landfill. These days, like a growing number of restaurants, the company recycles its shells.     

oysters on the half shell
Some of the 1,200 dozen oysters consumed each day from the 14 eateries owned by Clyde's Restuarant Group.

“The main reason we do it is because we’re such a large user of the resource,” said Bart Farrell, director of food and beverage for Clyde’s Restaurant Group. “It’s really in our best interest.”

The move to recycle shells is being driven by a growing number of nonprofit groups dedicated to restoring oyster reefs and rebuilding the oyster population, which have been diminished in recent decades by overfishing and degraded water quality, among other factors.
One of the organizations leading the movement is the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP), an Annapolis, MD-based nonprofit dedicated to “shellfish restoration, aquaculture and wild fishery activities to protect our environment, support our economy and preserve our cultural heritage.” In 2010, ORP launched the Shell Recycling Alliance to reclaim the thousands of shells being tossed into the trash by restaurants and catering companies and return them to the sea to be used as a home for spat (baby oysters) and to plant back in the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries.

“We realized very quickly we were going to run out of shell [and there was] no model for collecting shells from restaurants on a large scale,” said ORP executive director Stephan Abel of the creation of the Shell Recycling Alliance.

Today, ORP collects used oyster and clams shells from about 250 restaurants, catering companies and food distributors throughout Maryland; Virginia; Delaware; and Washington, D.C. Each year ORP collects between 10,000 and 15,000 bushels of shells, but it hopes to increase that number exponentially.

ORP intern, Jordan Stoleru, returning from a day of oyster shell recycling in Ocean City, Md.
"It’s growing organically,” said Abel of the program. “We want to make sure we do this and we do it right.”

The newest nonprofit to get into the shell game is the Oyster Shell and Reef Restoration, created to revitalize oyster beds and provide material for coastal restoration projects in Louisiana. Starting in the fall, the organization will pick up used shells from area restaurants for curing. Shell Oil Company recently donated $1 million to help fund the program — the state’s first-ever — for the first two years,
the Times Picayune recently reported.

Acme Oyster House, the New Orleans seafood icon that shucks and tosses out 9 million oyster shells a year, is among the restaurants ready to work with the start-up program. “Right now [our oysters] are going back to the dump,” said Lucien Gunter, CEO of Acme Oyster House. “We have a responsibility to restore that coastline and ensure that long-term sustainability. Imagine the barrier you can create [with 9 million oyster shells].”

Other shell recycling programs include the Galveston Bay Foundation’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program and North Carolina Oyster Shell Recycling.

While recycling oysters is good for the environment, many operators may be wondering if doing so is also good for business.

“Oysters are such an important species to a lot of the ecosystems. They provide filtering capability, habitats for other critters,” said Abel. “[It’s] not only the ecological value, but the benefits of having oysters on the menu.”

And, some say, that because of the program there are more local oysters to offer on menus.

“For a long time we didn’t have an oyster grown in Maryland on our menu. There was no local population,” said Farrell. “This was the first year we had a local oyster, [Hooper Island’s Chesapeake Gold]. Their success is a direct success of Oyster Recovery Partnership.”

Early program adopters are finding financial benefits as well. Oysters shells are heavy and therefore cost more to be hauled away by waste disposal companies; recycling reduces the load.

“The trash bill was greatly reduced by going to recycling,” said Farrell, whose company pays for trash disposal by both the number of pickups and by tonnage.

In addition, a state incentive program offers Maryland operators a tax credit of $1 for each bushel of shells recycled.

While the cost savings is great, it’s not why Acme Oyster House has chosen to recycle its oyster shells, says Gunter. “I may be able to eliminate two of our waste dumps as a result of recycling,” he said. “If I don’t save a dime in-house it’s still worth it.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Oyster Restoration Tisbury Martha's Vineyard

There's an exciting effort to bring the eastern oyster back to Martha's Vineyard.

The oyster is being reintroduced to Tisbury Great Pond. The 736-acre pond is a natural coastal pond that currently supports populations of oysters and soft-shell clams. It’s located in the towns of West Tisbury and Chilmark, and the two towns are sponsoring the project, including providing volunteers through the local shellfish advisory committees.

The project is intended to kick start a self-sustaining wild oyster reef and also provide a template for future shellfish restoration in the state.

The oyster bed will take up one acre of the 736-acre pond in West Tisbury and Chilmark. A bed for the larvae to attach to is being introduced to the pond this weekend. The work getting the oyster bed in place should wrap up in early- or mid-August.

Map of Martha's Vineyard Massachusetts.

oyster restoration site great pond tisbury
Great Pond Tisbury Martha's Vineyard Massachusetts

Mass Oyster is pleased to see these efforts growing in the state for two reasons. First, our base of knowledge and experience is growing and we will learn and get better. Second, as the State gains more experience and comfort with these projects it should lead to more of them.

Here is a link to a cool video of work done to improve circulation at the pond by opening it up to the sea a few years ago.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wellfleet Harbor Oyster Restoration Tour

Earlier this week, Mass Oyster visited Wellfleet to drop off a minivan full of recycled oyster shell for use in a zone set aside for oysters to grow and reproduce. When we pulled in at the Shellfish Constable’s office to make the drop off, one of the fellows exclaimed “Holy cow!” when we showed him our load. It was roughly 4 times the 2012 drop off and a fraction of what we will have in 2014. Terry’s program continues to gain strong momentum.

REcycled Osyters Shell in Wellfleet
A load of recycled shell graciously accepted by Wellfleet Officials.
The day was beautiful with sunshine, balmy sea breezes, and blue skies. While waiting for the tour to start, we could see our shell loaded on the spreader ready to head out for disbursal in lines on the harbor floor. Wellfleet uses a sand spreader on a barge.

Wellfleet Recycled Oyster Shell Barge
Wellfleet uses home grown device a sandspreader mounted on a barge to drop the shell.

We also took a walk around before Curt Felix gave us a tour of the set aside zone. It was interesting to see how abundant the oysters were. Here is a photo of the pilings on the town wharf, which is covered in oysters. These sizable oysters are easily reached, but not harvested as the site is off limits.

Wellfleet oysters
Oysters growing on the town pier are off limits to harvest and remain untouched.

The tour was well attended with people from as far away as Texas. Curt Felix led the tour. He is on the Wellfleet Comprehensive Waste Water Planning Committee and has been integral to the project.

Curt Felix with Sea Clam Shell with oysters growing on them.

He explained the rationale for the project in that this area of the Harbor was barren of oysters, so setting it aside did not harm commercial interests. It also was an area with marginal water quality as Duck Creek’s flow has a substantial nitrogen content Then sea clam shell was spread using a commercial road sand spreader mounted on a barge. Wellfleet has a natural oyster set, so young free floating oysters that exist in the harbor began setting on the hard shell. Once set it grew.

Oysters growing on sea clam shell.
Wellfleet Oyster restoration
Wellfleet Harbor Lines of shell with oysters growing on them.  

The exact number of oysters present in the site is not known but it is well into 7 figures, which means that they are filtering over 50 million gallons of water per day. That is making a measurable difference. Measurements taken periodically last year indicate that the area of the zone had a higher average water quality then all the areas around it including those further out in Wellfleet Harbor.  The water levels measurements even reached a level of Excellent on the EPA’s nitrogen scale.
On the site an attendee holds up a shell with sizable oysters on it.
One interesting change in the area was that the amount and depth of mud had dropped significantly.  Curt attributed this to three factors. First, the oysters were filtering out the particulates that normally add to the mud. Second, they were pulling out the nitrogen that feeds the organisms that make the mud. And finally they were digesting some of the particles from the mud when it was stirred up with tidal flows.

Below is an interesting photo of oysters growing on oysters; forming that reef-like structure that grows up to be able to mitigate wave action.  As the site matures, these branching projections should become larger and more common.

Wellfleet oyster restoration
The oysters  growing upward on top of other oysters are in the exact center of this photo.

It was a great day from start to finish- seeing this innovative project making a difference and our recycled shell contributing to it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Oysters In London's Thames River

One of the challenges of restoring oysters to Massachusetts estuaries is that in many cases they have been gone so long that people's baseline memories don't include oysters, so they do not notice they are missing.  this situation is not just the case here, but in other cities as well.

London, England once had oysters in the Thames River.  When you see the crowded, narrowed channel today, this seems incredible, but they were once there. The Romans used to eat them when they ruled the region.

Ancient Oysters in London Roman
Remnants of Crofton Roman Villa

Here is a link to a story about an archaeological dig at Crofton Roman Villa near London's Orpington Station. The 20 room villa was occupied from the years 140 to 400. It was quite sophisticated with a form of central heating. Among the objects they have found are extensive amounts of oyster shell.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Oyster Restoration Tour Wellfleet Tuesday June 18th 1:00 pm

Come join Mass Oyster as we get a tour of a zone loaded with millions of oysters in Wellfleet Harbor. This zone has been created to investigate the potential of oysters if they are fostered and allowed to grow. A practically barren area has been covered with tons of shell. To that shell over the ensuing two years millions of naturally occurring oyster spat have settled upon it and grown at a healthy pace.

Mass Oyster has supported this effort financially, with recycled shell, and this year by funding a student intern working on the project. 

Curt Felix will provide an overview and then we will have an opportunity to walk through the site. He will talk about the history of the project as well as its impact on water quality and biodiversity. The bulk of the talk will be on the Pier. But if you want to get a closer look, be prepared with shoes that can stand up to walking through 3-4 inches of mud.

curt felix oyster restoration
Curt Felix loading oyster shells onto a barge.

We will meet at the project sign across from the Harbormaster's Office at the town pier at 1:00. All are welcome- let us know you are going by emailing here...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 12th Wine/Oyster event at the Langham Hotel

This upcoming Wednesday, the Boston Langham Hotel will be hosting an Oyster and rose wine tasting from 6:00-8:00. The event will be held in the newly renovated Reserve room.

Langham Hotel Mass Oyster Wine Event Invitiation
Event invitation $25 is the cost.
The hotel is located in the heart of the financial district at 250 Franklin Street. This event could be a great way to end the day.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fun Clifornia Inn with Oyster Theme Nick's Cove Oyster Bar and Cottages



We came across this destination in Food Arts, a restaurant professionals magazine. It made us want to hit the road.


Enjoy Your Oysters and Your Stay

Beverly Stephen / June 2013
Marshall, California—How can you not fall in love with a hotel that greets you with a tray of local barbecued oysters the minute the valet whisks your car away?

That’s the welcoming amenity at Nick’s Cove Oyster Bar & Cottages, overlooking Tomales Bay in Marin County. Tomales Bay is at the heart of the California coastal waters rich with oyster beds with Hog Island Oyster Farm, also in the historic village of Marshall, being the most well known. So no wonder that oysters are the leading men at Nick’s.

There’s a raw bar with half a dozen different rotating locally harvested specimens, and in addition to the barbecued oysters, there are grilled oysters “Nick-erfeller” and baked oysters Mornay. Dungeness crab also plays a starring role in crab Louis, crab cakes, and an unctuous crab mac and cheese.

Austin Perkins, who came onboard in 2008 fresh from Cyrus in Healdsburg and was promoted to executive chef in 2011, embraces the land, too, with inventive salads and hearty mains, such as a wood-fired pork chop with rainbow chard and rosemary polenta.
On an inventive list, a standout cocktail is the Marshall Manhattan (see recipe below), made with Breaking and Entering Bourbon, and Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout Syrup—often described as a beer lover’s drink.

It could be tricky to negotiate the hairpin curves on Highway 1 if one explored much of the cocktail and/or wine list, but fortunately it’s possible to bed down right there in one of the 12 funky but luxuriously appointed waterfront cottages.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mass Oyster Project Alumni Moves to New Hampshire, But Stays With Oyster Restoration

One of the fun parts about being involved in oyster restoration through MOP is that we get to meet interesting people and watch them grow professionally. Interns have gone on to work at Marine Biology Labs or Semester at Sea.  Just last week we heard from one of our colleagues, Megan Glenn who had moved to New Hampshire.

The photo below shows Megan assisting with spat measurements for the Great Bay Oyster Restoration Project.

Megan Glenn restoring oysters on New Hampshire's Great Bay
Megan Glenn working with oysters on New Hampshire's Great Bay.

After departing Boston, Megan has found new avenues for working with oysters in the NH seacoast area. She is currently working for the Gundalow Company teaching environmental education and plans on attending UNH in the fall for a masters in Zoology. She will be studying under Ray Grizzle who is well known in the oyster restoration community.