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Friday, October 31, 2008

Brady's Oysters

I found this site while surfing the internet. If I am ever in Aberdeen WA, I am going to stop by. Cute bumper sticker too.

Brady's Oyster Website:


Monday, October 27, 2008

Chesapeake Bay Oyster History Lesson

Here is some Oyster history:

Beyond mere food, oysters are history. Oysters made Chesapeake Bay and the tidewater culture that embraces it. Chesapeake itself means “Great Shellfish Bay”. Archeologists can spot a pre- European contact Indian village site by the overgrown piles of discarded shells. Visit old tobacco plantations from Mount Vernon to Cape Charles; each has tucked away, amid the poison ivy and kudzu, a mound of old oyster shells quietly dissolving back into the soil. Indentured servants and slaves were fed oysters; cheap protein and free for the harvesting in the shallows. One of the first labor strikes in American history rose from indentured servants complaining about having to eat oysters day in and day out.

When John Smith explored the Bay in the 1500’s, he found oysters so extensive that they formed reefs, breaking the surface at low tide and a hazzard to navigation. The European settlers adapted the Indian appetites and watercraft. Soon, schooners called bugeyes, sporting two raked masts and hulls built from nine old-growth pitch pine logs, were hauling dredges across the reefs. After centuries of onslaught, the reefs soon dwindled to bars; smaller, shorter, and harder to get at, but still chock full of oysters. Bugeyes gave way to skipjacks—single masted plank-built sloops that could handle the new conditions. These graceful craft began the evolution of clipper ships, the acme of sailing ship development.

Oysters are vital to Chesapeake Bay, in large part responsible for its teeming biodiversity and are the Bay’s filtering system. Oysters are what ecologists call a “keystone species”. Keystone species are defined, like the Cheshire Cat, by what’s left when they are gone. Pull a keystone species out of the environmental pyramid, and you get a resulting cascade of unforeseen changes and extinctions of species that, at first glance, have nothing to do with oysters drop in abundance and associated ecosystem function. Ecologists estimate that, at the turn of the 20th century, a volume water equivalent to that of the entire Chesapeake Bay was filtered through an oyster every three days. A single oyster runs 50 gallons of water a day through its gills, feeding on and removing algae and bacteria.

Restored Oyster Reef

Oysters’ prodigious filtering capacity was the major influence on submerged vegetation. Oysters filter feed on one celled algae, keeping the water clear enough for sunlight to penetrate to the bottom, allowing aquatic grasses to thrive. The grasses formed nurseries for crabs and fish of all sorts.

In the 19th Century, sail switched to steam and gasoline engines and the plunder became serious. Maryland made feeble attempts at conservation, such as limiting dredging to sail only, but to little avail. It is an adage among fisheries management people that governments don’t enact management plans until the resource has already dwindled to critical levels. After being pounded for 400 years, the oysters have seemingly given up. Down to one percent of their former populations, they are no longer a major functional part of Chesapeake ecology.

Eastport once had nearly 20 oyster shucking houses and watermen tied up at nearby Annapolis City Dock to off load their bushels of bivalves. Skipjacks and smaller working craft were common in the harbor.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shells Reveal Change in Oysters

400-year-old remnants show that creatures grew faster than they do today


A study of 400-year-old oyster shells discovered in a Jamestown well used by colonists shows that eastern oysters grew significantly faster then than oysters today, a clue that may help shed light on the plight of the modern oyster.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science study provides the first documented evidence that oysters function differently than they did in the early 1600s.

They were larger than modern oysters the same age, which probably would have made them "exponentially more capable of reproducing, filtering water and making shell," said Juliana Harding, senior marine scientist at VIMS.

Roger Mann, professor of marine science at VIMS, said the slower growth rate of modern oysters may be the result of changes in water quality or sedimentation -- which can bury oyster habitat -- diseases, or a combination of these factors.

Researchers studied shells unearthed in a 1609-1616 well discovered inside the James Fort site at Historic Jamestowne in 2006. Archaeologists contacted VIMS and other organizations to find out what shells and other organic artifacts preserved in the watery environment could reveal about the Chesapeake before the impact of European colonization.

As they produce their shells, oysters, clams and other mollusks record biological information about their age and growth just like trees store information in growth rings. They also incorporate minerals from the water and lay down a record about their environment that can potentially provide information about water temperature and salinity levels.

"They're like a million environmental barometers spread all over the place that have recorded everything that's happened at that spot throughout their entire life history," Mann said.

To select shells suitable for comparison, Harding sorted through about 3,000 oyster shells deposited in the well after colonists began using it as a trash pit.

To determine changes in growth rate, researchers measured the shell lengths and compared the historic oysters with modern oysters of the same age from similar sites in the James River that had the same salinity level as Jamestown in the early 1600s.

Studies of mineral deposits in the 400-year-old shells of tiny crustaceans and marine protozoans from the Chesapeake Bay were used to determine that salinity levels around Jamestown were 10-15 parts per thousand higher than they are now.

In 1617, oyster reefs in the James River near Jamestown were large enough to be navigational hazards, indicated as small islands on a 17th century map drawn by Johannes Vingboons, a Dutch cartographer. Harding said they would have been visible at low tide.

Although oysters can live 10 to 20 years, Harding said most modern oysters die before they are two or three years old, mainly because of diseases, harvesting and habitat degradation.

"Restoring them is not simply a matter of putting more oysters in, leaving them alone and expecting the same results we had 400 years ago," she said. "You need to plan and accommodate for things that are out there now that were not there then. That's a step that has not always been acknowledged."
Results from the study will be published in the Journal of Shellfish Research in December. For further information, visit

Old Wilson Bridge Finds New Life As Artificial Reef for Baby Oysters

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer


Marine biologists and divers hand-delivered 500,000 baby oysters to the first of five new artificial reefs created from the rubble of the old Woodrow Wilson Bridge this week, part of a broader effort to restore the badly depleted oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay.

On Thursday, a six-person diving crew planted the native oyster spat on 80 acres of concrete slabs on the bay's sandy bottom about 10 miles southwest of Chesapeake Beach in Calvert County. The artificial reef is also providing a habitat for rockfish, black sea bass and other fish.

The project, known as the Dominion Reef at the Gooses, is a "small-scale example" of what Maryland officials could propose to the 2009 General Assembly as part of the state's oyster restoration effort, said Martin Gary, a fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

This week, state and federal environmental officials released a major study addressing ways to revive the bay's oysters. Possible fixes include a temporary harvest moratorium and the introduction of nonnative Asian oysters.

The reef project, estimated to cost $1.4 million for the five sites, represents a far less sweeping but important step, state officials said. "It is not a perfect program, but with what we are trying to do, our hearts are in the right place," Gary said.

The project is one of the largest undertaken by the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative, a coalition of groups sharing an interest in improving the environment below the surface of Maryland waters.

Earlier this year, the coalition was involved in dumping old New York subway cars into the Atlantic Ocean to house marine life near Ocean City, and next week it will use old Bay Bridge decks to build an oyster reef in the Severn River.

The latest reef project -- named after the Dominion utility, which donated $275,000 -- attracted about 60 partners, including scientists, corporations, environmental groups and sport fishermen, Gary said.

Before the Wilson Bridge's concrete deck was placed into the water, the bay's floor "was a barren desert," Gary said. "There was no reason for marine life to be there."

In the mid-1800s, an average of 15 million bushels of oysters were caught annually in Maryland waters. The yearly harvest dropped below 1 million bushels in the late 1980s because of disease and pollution, according to experts. In addition, about 2,000 acres of natural oyster habitat disappear each year, said Stephan R. Abel, executive director of the Oyster Recovery Partnership.

On Thursday, Nick Caloyianis, an Oscar-winning underwater filmmaker from Catonsville who has been documenting the reef project, said there was "an amazing array" of other marine life at the site already.

"It is definitely doing its job as an artificial reef. We are seeing a lot of health down there," he said.

Brian Keehn, president of the Maryland Charter Boat Association and captain of the Canvasback, a boat that transported the divers, biologists and others to the reef, praised the oyster-planting effort.

"This is a win-win for all users of the bay, the fish and the habitat," said Keehn, whose organization had been advocating for artificial reefs for five years.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Groups Support Bid to Revive Native Bay Oysters

There's nothing like the native bay oyster. the Asian oysters have a different taste. AFI

Article By Timothy B. Wheeler

Two leading environmental groups voiced their support yesterday for trying to revive the Chesapeake Bay's native oyster rather than introducing Asian oysters into the estuary.

Delicious Chesapeake Bay Oysters (Last Night's Dinner)

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Nature Conservancy said they believe that native oyster restoration still holds promise - both ecologically and for the seafood industry - and does not pose the risks associated with putting Asian oysters into the bay.

"Given the available information, the combination of native oyster aquaculture and enhanced native restoration clearly provides the best potential for progress with the least amount of risk," said foundation President William C. Baker.

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland and Virginia released a 1,500-page draft environmental impact statement yesterday evaluating different strategies for restoring the bay's oyster population, which has shrunk to 1 percent of historic levels because of disease and overharvesting.

Native oyster restoration efforts to date have yielded meager results.

While studies have found that Asian oysters hold promise because they resist the diseases killing native oysters, the foreign species poses several risks, including hurting what's left of the native oysters or introducing yet another shellfish disease to the bay.

The study made no recommendations. Officials say they want public input on the alternatives to help them determine the right course.

Gov. Martin O'Malley issued a statement declaring that while the study "does not offer a definitive recommendation" on whether to put Asian oysters in the bay, "I remain concerned that the risk of such an irrevocable step could well outweigh any benefit." (Tell it brother).

Virginia officials have backed controlled experiments with sterile Asian oysters in their waters.

Six public meetings will be held to get input.

The Maryland sessions will be on Nov. 12 in Solomons, Nov. 13 in Annapolis and Nov. 14 in Cambridge.

A decision is expected next spring.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Asian Oyster Holds Promise, Risk

Species could re-establish depleted bay fishery, study says
By Timothy B. Wheeler

State officials say they want to hear public views on the Asian oyster. Some environmentalists fear decisions will be based on politics, not science.

Photo courtesy of Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Seeding the Chesapeake Bay with disease-resistant Asian oysters could significantly boost the bay's depleted population of the water-cleaning shellfish, according to a federal study to be released next week.

But the study, a copy of which was obtained by The Baltimore Sun, warns that the foreign species also could harm what's left of the bay's native oyster population - and perhaps spread to threaten ecosystems all along the East Coast.

The draft environmental impact statement by the Army Corps of Engineers lists pros and cons of the controversial proposal to put Asian oysters in the bay, an idea that had been pushed hard by the Ehrlich administration to revive a flagging seafood industry.

But after more than four years of research and debate among scientists, the $17 million study does not make a recommendation about what route would be best for the bay. Officials say they want to hear public views on the matter first.

That stance bothers some environmentalists, who say the decision should be based on science - not a political desire to help the seafood industry.

Jamie King, a former federal scientist who coordinated much of the research that went into the study, called the lack of a recommendation "an abdication of responsibility." She said state and federal agencies had pledged to base their decision on science, but she suspects they will rely on "the court of public opinion."

"They want to see who screams the loudest," she said.

But an O'Malley administration official said restoring the bay's oyster population is a public policy issue that goes beyond science.

"It's not going to be put to a vote, but we're very interested in hearing the public's feedback on the options before us," said Tom O'Connell, fisheries director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. O'Connell said officials want to know how committed people are to restoring the native oyster, and how willing they are to take a chance on an Asian oyster that could cause other problems.

The study, funded by Maryland, Virginia and federal agencies, was launched four years ago to settle a growing debate about the environmental risks of putting non-native oysters in the bay to supplement a native oyster population decimated by parasitic diseases and overharvesting.

The O'Malley administration, unlike Ehrlich's, is "skeptical" about the wisdom of introducing Asian oyster, O'Connell said. After six public meetings over the next two months, the two states and the Army Corps hope to agree early next year on whether to introduce Asian oysters, continue working to restore native oysters, or both.

Oysters are seen by many as a key to the bay's health. Scientists have suggested that the bay's water-quality woes may be linked in part to the drastic decline in bay oysters, since by some estimates they were once so abundant they filtered all the Chesapeake's water every three or four days.

Efforts to restore the native oyster by propagating millions of them in government hatcheries have produced only mixed results to date - though critics point out that in Maryland, watermen are still allowed to harvest many of the publicly produced oysters.

Urged on by its seafood industry, Virginia has been growing sterilized batches of the Asian oyster in its portion of the bay for years to see how they fare. Seafood processors and watermen in both states argue that their livelihood is doomed without a new oyster capable of fending off the parasitic diseases that kill native oysters before they can grow large enough to market.

The study looks not only at seeding the bay with billions of Asian oysters, but at growing sterilized Asian oysters in the bay for commercial use. It also evaluates several options for stepping up efforts to restore native oysters - including a baywide moratorium on harvesting them.

It found that doing everything at once - introducing sterile and reproducing Asian oysters, and boosting native oyster work - offers the best prospects for rebuilding an oyster population in the bay. But that approach also carries the greatest risks of environmental harm, the study warned, and it still may not succeed at restoring oysters to the abundance they had until about 40 years ago.

"I think there's some serious promise" with the Asian oyster, said Kennedy Paynter, a University of Maryland oyster biologist who has worked with both species. "But I think that the potential for serious negative impact that we don't understand yet is still quite high."

Asian oysters have proven fast-growing and resistant to the two parasitic diseases killing native bay oysters. But research in recent years has found that the imports are more vulnerable to predators and poor water quality. They die off relatively quickly when oxygen levels drop in the water - a serious issue, some scientists say, because of the "dead zone" that spreads across the bay bottom in summer.

They also seem to be vulnerable to another parasite than the ones killing native oysters. A batch of Asian oysters being tested in North Carolina died off after becoming infected with Bonamia, an organism not seen in the bay now but capable of surviving in its saltier waters.

If Asian oysters do take hold in the bay, the study says, research has shown that they may compete with native oysters for food and habitat, raising concerns that the import could crowd out the native.

Seafood industry leaders have indicated they'd like to practice aquaculture with sterile Asian oysters, which would grow especially fast and large. But scientists have warned that reproducing Asian oysters could eventually end up in the bay, and then spread. The study says that if that happened, it would take many years.

"That's the ultimate question: How much risk are you willing to accept?" said Jack Travelstead, fisheries director for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

Stan Allen, an oyster researcher at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, argues that the risks of using sterile Asian oysters are manageable, and that any escape of reproducing oysters could be detected and cleaned up before they could spread. He suggested that risk ought to be weighed against the prospect of reviving the region's struggling oyster industry.

Other scientists and environmentalists urge caution.

"The burden of proof needs to be on the [advocates of ] introduction to show that it will not result in significant problems," said William Goldsborough, senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

"If the Asian oyster is introduced successfully to Chesapeake Bay, that's an irreversible decision ... that still has very uncertain consequences, in terms of risk and benefits," said Denise Breitburg, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater.

"Given that," she said, "we should exhaust all possibilities for native oyster restoration before we do what I consider a drastic step."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Oyster season opened in Virginia a few days ago, October 1st. Tonight I will be steaming three dozen Chesapeake Bay oysters for myself. AAAAHHHHHH.

Welcome Oysterfest 2008!!!

Oyster - #4 of the 10 Eco-best Fish to Eat

The oyster landed in the #4 spot of the 10 Eco-best fish to eat (by the Environmental Defense Fund).

Very interesting.

Here is a link to the original article:

I guess the picture credit is MSN? Oh well.

Original article text:

Oysters (Farmed)

Three species -- Eastern or American oyster, edible oyster and Pacific oysters (covered here) -- are farmed in the U.S.

Originally from Japan, the Pacific or Japanese oyster (a.k.a. Crassostrea gigas, Japanese oyster, Pacific giant oyster) was first introduced on the West Coast from larval seed oysters brought from Japan to British Columbia, where fisheries based on the slow-growing Olympia oyster were in decline. The Pacific oyster is now the most commonly farmed shellfish both in the United States and worldwide. This fast-growing oyster may reach 12 inches (30 cm) long.

Commercial Sources

Pacific oysters are native to northeastern Asia. However, they have been introduced into Europe, North America, East Asia and Oceania.

The main sources of Pacific oysters are China, Japan, South Korea and France. Oysters sold in the U.S. market are primarily from the United States, South Korea, Japan and China.

Capture Methods

Pacific oysters come from shellfish farms. Farmed oysters are raised with suspended systems.

Eco Details

Pacific oysters are not native to North America, but are commonly found in the wild. As filter feeders, they feed on suspended biological matter, helping to keep the water clean. Pacific oysters are raised on suspended ropes, trays, or the ocean floor.

Health Details

Adults and children can safely eat more than 4 meals per month.
Oysters contain low to no contaminant levels.
Oysters are high in heart-healthy omega-3s.

Flavor and Texture

Cook oysters very lightly, only until the mantle curls. Oyster meat has a mild flavor, but the texture can be rubbery.

Buying Tips

Be sure you buy (and cook) them live! Tap on shells to see whether they close; the smell should be natural sea smell, not sulfurous. Store at 34-38 degrees F, in a breathable container. Don't put them in fresh water; it will kill them.