Monday, September 30, 2013

Boston Seafood Festival Rocks

On Saturday, Mass Oyster had an exciting time at the Boston Seafood Festival. We made new friends, met up with old friends and grew the base of supporters for oyster restoration.

Boston Fisheries Foundation supports sustainable fishing, educating people about the importance of fisherman and our maritime traditions.

In the new friend category, we met oystermen from Riptide Oysters in Westport, MA. The oysters are raised in an estuary of Buzzards Bay near Horseneck Beach. The guys shared with us the good news that there was a healthy natural set in the River. It was impressive hearing of their dedication and concern for the River.

oysterman supporting oyster restoration
Oysterman from Riptide Oysters of Westport, MA.

We shared with them some information gleaned from a very old Colliers Magazine, that the roads of the area were once paved with oyster shell. Additionally, there was a tourist business of taking people on carriage rides through trails cut through the 30 foot high shell middens left by the Indians.

Moving to the North Shore, we connected with a gentleman whose Ipswich firm could be a source of shell. It appears that there is a natural set there as well.

We also welcomed new volunteer Lindsey Schrier who did an awesome job at the booth.

oyster restoration display
Lindsey Schrier selling Mass Oyster T-shirts and Caps.

We also held a drawing. Two people won shucking lessons at the North End Fish Market on Salem Street in Boston's North End. Liz and Kerri offer shucking lesson son Saturday afternoons and generously donated this prize. At the lessons, they show you how to get the oysters open without opening your skin and blood vessels.

Having the ability to shuck opens up your world to being able to buy oysters and serve them at home. It is a skill every New Englander should have like eating a lobster, ice skating or sailing a boat.

Our shucking lesson winners are...

Kevin Murphy

Christine Mangan

The winner of our last Mass Oyster windbreaker was Christine Doucet.

Congratulations all.

 Come join us in a few weeks at the Wellfleet Oyster Festival on October 19 and 20.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Oyster Restoration in New York City's Bronx River Creates Acre Sized Reef

We are reprinting this article from the New York Times on oyster restoration in that city wistfully. It is encouraging to see other States making such progress, but sad to think of the opportunity cost of the time spent overcoming bureaucratic challenges here in the Bay State. 


This situation is reminiscent of the Richard Dreyfus- Bill Murray film "What about Bob?" - Baby steps... Baby steps...




We are making progress and we will get there eventually.



In Bronx River, Helping Oysters Stage Comeback

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
Pete Malinowski, with the New York Harbor School, and a student, Luis Negron, in background, putting oysters into a reef in the Bronx River.
Not much lived in the Bronx River in the 1970s, when it was tainted with toxic chemicals and human waste and choked by abandoned cars dumped into its waters.
The oyster did.
Oysters clung tenaciously to tires here and there, a tiny remnant of the vast oyster reefs that once thrived in New York City’s waterways and nourished natives and settlers alike. Now after decades of cleanup efforts in the river, the oyster has emerged as a tangible measure of how much more needs to be done to return the river closer to its natural state.
A one-acre oyster reef has been created in the river just off the shore of Soundview Park in the South Bronx — one of the largest oyster restoration projects in the city. On Saturday, students from the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School relocated about 100,000 farm-raised baby oysters, known as spat-on-shell, to the reef, which was made this summer by piling 100 tons of empty shells on the river’s muddy bottom.
These Bronx oysters are not destined for the dinner plate or coveted as a source of pearls, but instead are prized for their ability to filter pollutants and anchor a marine ecosystem with their craggy reefs.
“They’re ecological engineers,” said Dennis Suszkowski, science director of the Hudson River Foundation in Lower Manhattan, which is overseeing the oyster reef in the Bronx River. “Oysters will grow on top of one another and create a three-dimensional habitat with all sorts of nook and crannies for fish to feed and use as shelter. It’s the kind of habitat that was once here that is no longer here.”
The project builds upon more than a decade of painstaking oyster research and experimentation in the New York region, which once had mile upon mile of oyster beds that supplied oyster houses, saloons and even street carts across the city before they largely disappeared, victims of overharvesting and pollution, according to scientists.
NY/NJ Baykeeper, a nonprofit organization, has recruited volunteers to tend so-called oyster gardens — small clusters of oysters in metal cages — in their own communities. In 2013, the program expanded to 45 sites in the region, up from 30 last year.
But such restoration efforts still have a long way to go. The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, a public high school on Governors Island that started an oyster farm in 2008, has raised just over two million of the billion baby oysters that it intends to provide for restoration projects, including the one in the Bronx River.
“It’s a huge challenge,” said Pete Malinowski, a teacher who oversees the school’s oyster program. “We’re still scratching the surface in trying to figure out what it means and how we should do it. It’s very early on.”
Though there were some wild oysters in the Bronx River, they did not survive in any significant number until a small pilot reef was built there in 2006 by the city parks department and community and environmental groups. The reef was cobbled together from clam shells, which are more readily available than oyster shells. Some of the shells washed away. More were piled on. Soon wild oysters floating by attached themselves to the shells. Spat-on-shell were added to the budding population.
“We saw that the oysters survived, and that we had successfully created a beneficial habitat, so we decided we should promote this site and do more,” said Marit Larson, director of wetlands restoration for the parks department.
In 2010, the Hudson River Foundation and NY/NJ Baykeeper led a coalition of more than 30 governmental agencies and scientific organizations to test experimental oyster reefs in six locations around the city, including the Bronx River, Jamaica Bay and near Great Kills Harbor in Staten Island.
The Bronx oysters thrived, and the coalition secured $165,000 in grants to build a larger reef there in June.
Throughout the summer, researchers and environmentalists pulled on their waders and trudged into the river to check on the new reef. On one trip, the soft, shifting river bottom sucked at their waders like quicksand.
“You have to keep walking because there’s no real bottom, at least that we can find,” said Damian Griffin, education director of the Bronx River Alliance. “As soon as your ankle goes down, you have to really work to get it out.”
The oyster has been embraced by community groups in the Bronx, where it serves as a positive counterpoint to the much-publicized pollution of the river. Rocking the Boat, a nonprofit youth development organization, has introduced the oyster to high school students as a way to teach them science and history. It has even provided samples to taste — from Whole Foods, not from the river.
Chrissy Word, the group’s director of public programs, said most of the students had never stepped foot in the river before helping to monitor and track the growth of oysters there.
“The vast majority of them think the Bronx River is a terribly dangerous place because it used to be,” she said, citing the pollution and debris that were once its hallmark. “You still can’t eat the fish, but the positive thing is we can use it in many ways we couldn’t before.”
For some, the river is fit again not only for oysters, but also for humans.
Justin Fornal, the host of “The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia” on the Cooking Channel, swam by the new oyster reef in July to call attention to the river as a natural resource for the borough. He said he was warned by friends that he might “come out with extra body parts.”
Mr. Fornal, 35, recalled looking down and seeing abandoned objects like dolls, tires, radios and air-conditioners buried in the silt, seemingly frozen in time. But he also swam through clear, deep stretches that reminded him of the ocean.
“There are those who would disagree with me that it’s clean enough to swim in,” he said. “But I felt great after the swim. I didn’t get as much as a cold.”

Oyster Shucking and Shell Recycling at the Boston Seafood Festival This Saturday

Mass Oyster will be recycling oyster shell and have exhibit at a booth at the Boston Seafood Festival on Saturday September 28. It will be on Fan Pier at the Bank of America Pavillion. The festival runs from  The festival supports the Boston Fisheries Foundation. 

The festival is $10 for adults and children under 6 are free.  The price of admission covers all entertainment; enjoy the oyster shucking contest, chef cooking demonstrations, education and nutrition, kids activities, and music. There are a few food vendors that will be offering free seafood samples; the rest of the food vendors will be offering a limited menu of small plates. The average cost of a plate is under $10. Big Rock Oyster Co. of Dennis will be selling oysters on the half shell.

The Boston Fisheries Foundation is a  nonprofit organization created to:
  • Support and expand sustainable fisheries, which in turn sustain the New England economy;
  • Educate the media and the public about the role played by fishermen in preserving our wild ocean stocks through responsible harvesting and management;
  • Educate the media and the public about the benefits of sustainably harvested seafood as high-quality nutrition whose production protects the environment from deforestation, global warming, and other negative impacts;
  • Facilitate public awareness of our history and the importance of wild harvests to the proud traditions of an independent New England; and,
  • Develop a Maritime Fisheries Museum to honor our heritage.
They will be kicking off the festival weekend with a very special Boston Seafood Gala on Friday September 27, 2013.

For more information, comments or questions, please contact them at

massachusetts oyster hat funds restoring oysters
Mass Oyster hat sales support restoring oysters.

We also will have a booth with tattoos for the kids, educational materials, our famous photo cut-out and mass oyster apparel for sale. Stop in and say  "Hello"

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Oyster Restoration Movie At Zygomates Draws Nice Crowd.

Last night Mass Oyster joined the Oyster Century Club for a showing of the movie Shellshocked, a documentary that outlines the history of oysters in New York as well as the efforts of a 28 organization coalition to restore them to areas including Brooklyn and the Hudson River.
The film also discusses the tremendous environmental benefits of oysters; sheltering 300 other species of sea life as well and cleansing the seawater.
The event was organized by food writer Jacqueline Church who runs the Oyster Century Club. The Club is for oyster lovers with incentives for those who have passed milestones in sampling a variety of the bivalves. They host tastings and events.

jaqcqueline Church Food Writer Oyster lover
Jacqueline Church Food Writer

To complement the movie, Abigail Carroll of Nonesuch Oysters out of Biddeford Pool Maine provided a sampling. And her oysters had a wonderful grassy finish on the palate.  Abigail sort of fell into the oyster industry when she began helping someone with a business plan and inherited the start-up when the initial founder dropped out.

Oysterwoman Abigail Carroll
Abbigail Carroll of Nonesuch Oysters

She did not speak extensively. But she should have. Check out her Ted Talk.

Fortunately, her business is blossoming and is now getting ready to expand distribution beyond her home state and establish distribution into the Hub.
Nonesuch Oysters
The venue for the event, Zygomates is an award winning wine bar-restaurant on South Street, a stone’s throw from South Station. It has a nice ambiance, great service, and on certain evenings –Free Jazz.
Professor Ana-Marija Frankic of the Green Boston Harbor Project also spoke about her work to create salt marsh and other natural features in Boston Harbors and her involvement in oyster restoration in Wellfleet. She supervises an intern funded by Mass Oyster.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Oyster Restoration for Nitrogen Removal

Despite all the fine work of Boston Water and Sewer, the MWRA and with the Deer Island treatment plant, there still is considerable nitrogen entering both Boston Harbor and other estuaries in the state. Nitrogen leads to harmful algae blooms that choke out light and use up vital oxygen.

The folks at the Nature Conservancy have a terrific Blog post on the topic. We excerpt bits of it here.

Research: Can Restoring Oyster Reefs Combat Nitrogen Pollution?

Oyster Restoration and Nitrogen

Could restoring oyster reefs combat nitrogen pollution? This question is being answered by research conducted at the Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve. Photo: Mark Godfrey/TNC

By Jonathan Adams

Oysters filter nitrogen from water — and nitrogen pollution is a huge and growing problem along many coastlines, not just for the United States, but worldwide. So could restoring oyster reefs combat nitrogen pollution? And if the answer is yes, could that service generate enough funding for broad-scale oyster restoration?

A team of scientists is investigating those questions at the Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve — fittingly, just offshore from Oyster, Virginia — developing crucial data on just how much nitrogen oyster reefs can take out of the water. Their findings may aid in the recovery of oyster reefs across the country. That recovery may in turn spur the revival of estuaries — and the economies that depend on them — from Willapa Bay in Washington, to Chesapeake Bay, to the Gulf of Mexico.
“If we do it right, restoring oyster reefs can be a big part of how we reduce the amount of nitrogen and other nutrients in estuaries like Chesapeake Bay,” says Lisa Kellogg, a researcher at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the leader of the team working in the Virginia Coast Reserve.


Unfortunately, you do not need scientific expertise to see the need to reduce nitrogen pollution here in Oyster and elsewhere in and around Chesapeake Bay—or in many parts of the world.
When nitrogen reaches the Bay or any other shallow estuary –– as run-off from agriculture, as untreated sewage, or in the emissions of power plants and factories –– it provides nutrients for phytoplankton, which bloom effusively and then die and sink to the bottom. Bacteria break the plants down and in so doing suck much of the oxygen out of the surrounding water, killing the fish, crabs, shellfish, seagrass and just about everything else. As a result, when plankton blooms reach their summer peak, about two-thirds of the Bay is a dead zone.

The problem is far bigger even than that. Just in the US, the Mississippi River gathers runoff from millions of acres of farmland, and the nitrogen and other nutrients that pour into the Gulf of Mexico creates a dead zone every summer that can cover more than 8,000 square miles, and area the size of New Jersey. Worldwide, there are some 400 dead zones, and scientists expect that number to rise.


Oyster Restoration and Birds
Nitrogen pollution negatively affects bay habitats–and people. Photo: Hal Brindley
The science team in Oyster has reason for at least cautious optimism: Kellogg found in earlier experiments that under the right conditions, an acre of restored oyster reef could remove nearly   500 pounds of nitrogen from the water per year, more than anyone had shown anywhere in the Bay and one of the highest ever reported in any marine environment.

At that rate, restoring about 1,300 acres of oyster reef would be about the same as building a state-of-the-art water treatment plant. That may sounds like a lot, but there are many thousands of acres in the Bay that could potentially support restored oyster reefs.

That result stirred considerable excitement. Under the Clean Water Act, communities must reduce the amount of nitrogen flowing into rivers and estuaries. Faced with the possibility of needing to build new water treatment facilities at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to get into compliance with the law, the idea of using oysters instead may well make economic and ecological sense.
“We have been chasing the denitrification argument for some time,” says Boze Hancock, a marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy. “Denitrification is one of the service that oyster reefs provide for us, and one of real value,” he says. But Hancock also adds a note of caution: the state of most oyster populations are so dire that it will take time for them to really contribute. “We have a lot of work to do to get these systems back on their feet before reefs are relevant to reducing nutrient pollution.”


Restoring oyster reefs could provide important ecological services at less cost than building water treatment plants. Photo: Mark Godfrey/TNC
To reduce an exceedingly complex system to a simple schematic: oysters filter the water above them and consume the phytoplankton and other bits of organic matter. Some of the nitrogen in the plants ends up in the oyster itself or in its shell, and the rest gets excreted and lands on the sediment around the reef, along with everything else the oysters filter out of the water but do not actually eat.

Once there, aerobic bacteria living in the top layer of sediment and anaerobic bacteria deeper down transform the nitrogen in a series of steps that end with some of it being released as nitrogen gas, the most abundant element in the air we breathe.

The reefs provide other benefits as well, like protecting shorelines, providing food and habitat for fish and filtering water so more light reaches the bottom thus encouraging the growth of seagrass.