1623 Whitesville Rd.
Toms River, NJ 08755

Volume 1:09
February 2009

Contents of this Issue

From the Mouth of the Bay
Compound in Oysters Effective in Preventing Cancer
Mercury Levels Low in East Coast Shellfish
Food Grade Oil to Prevent Sea Squirt Fouling
2009 Seafood Summit, San Diego
Letter from the ECSGA President
Romancing the Clam
Neanderthals Dined on Shellfish
Upcoming Events
USDA Releases Data on Shellfish Imports and Exports
NACE 2008 in Portland, Maine

From the Mouth of the Bay


As I write this the ice is finally melting off the roof after one of the coldest Januarys in my memory. Hopefully the chill has knocked all the oyster parasites for a loop. I am encouraged by longer days and the knowledge that warmer temperatures are in the days ahead. I am also heartened by the continued growth and progress that I see in our Association. Our membership grows and we continue to put forth a professional presence for our members. We are able to answer press questions and address critical issues, letting our members concentrate on running their businesses. 


The bitter cold didn’t dampen spirits at the inauguration and it didn’t keep us from visiting a record 34 Congressional offices when we made our annual pilgrimage to DC a week later. These are interesting times in DC to say the least. With the transfer of power come a raft of new Cabinet appointments and turnover in all the powerful committee chairmanship positions. The constant drumbeat of deteriorating economic conditions and the harried negotiations on an economic stimulus package of unprecedented scale made it difficult for legislators to focus on the issues of our shellfish community.


As usual we joined our counterparts from the Gulf and West coast industries for a half-day meeting to compare notes and issues before we fanned out across the Hill. The three associations also teamed up for our annual Congressional reception at the Acadiana restaurant. Many thanks to our members who donated shellfish for the event and especially to Sandy Ingber from Grand Central Oyster Bar and Bill McKinley and Tony Marcello from McCormick and Schmicks who came to the event to prepare special oyster dishes for the estimated 600 folks who attended.


This year, we traveled to DC with a contingent of six members, enabling us to split into two groups and visit many more offices than in previous years. We tried to bring attention to our many issues at every office with pleas for research funding, requests for funds for marketing and support for H2B visas. We also asked legislators to support bills authorizing offshore aquaculture and funding research on ocean acidification.


For us to be able to continue this work we need not only the support of our members, but the support of all of the industries that work with our growers. We need your help in recruiting members from the ranks of truckers and boxmakers, dealers and suppliers that depend on shellfish farmers for their business. Together we can achieve our goals. If you know of a grower, dealer or gear supplier who is not yet a member, please pass them a membership form and ask for their support.


In my heart I believe that times may be bad, but they are no where near as bad as the 24-hour news would have you believe. In the 70’s we had much worse unemployment, gas lines, runaway inflation and mortgage interest rates in the high teens. Once the titanic emotional forces of fear and greed come back into balance, we will get a recovery and the economic pendulum will swing back. “When is that going to happen?” is the big question; that and “What do we have to do to survive this downturn?” The best advice I can think of is to trim costs and then trim them again. Hone your marketing skills and work on networking and marketing so that you will be in a good position once the tide turns.


Bob Rheault,

Executive Director





Compound in Oysters Effective in Preventing Cancer

by Kathy Rhodes

ECSGA Administrator


Oysters contain fat compounds called ceramides, which could help treat or prevent cancer, according to a Louisiana State University researcher.


 “This is incredibly exciting,” said Jack Losso, of the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Food Science, He recently presented his research, funded by Louisiana Sea Grant and the AgCenter, at the Annual Meeting of the Institute for Food Technology.

Text Box: When we looked at cancer cells treated with oyster ceramides, their growth had been inhibited and they were dying.


His research showed that ceramides in oysters can restrict blood-vessel growth in breast tumor cells in test tubes and in rats. This is significant because without nutrients from blood, cancer cells can’t multiply.


Losso collects ceramide from oysters by blending the shellfish's meat and extracting the lipid, or fat compound, with an FDA-approved organic solvent – the same one used to extract oil from corn and soybeans.


In laboratory rats treated with oyster ceramides, blood vessel growth was reduced by 57 percent in seven days and no toxicity to the rats was seen. Although the rats received concentrated ceramide injections, the compound could be taken as a pill. Conceivably, an oyster-rich diet could aid in cancer prevention. “You could eat the oysters raw or cooked,” said Losso. “But you can’t grill with those popular countertop grills that discard the fat. The ceramide is in the oil, which is lost when you use a grill that is tilted.”


Most ceramide currently being used – in anti-aging cosmetics, for example – is synthetic, based on cows’ milk. “It’s similar to that found in oysters but with a different structure,” Losso said. He added that the advantage of oyster ceramide, is that it is naturally occurring and stable.


Mercury Levels Low in East Coast Shellfish

by Dale Leavitt

Roger Williams University


A joint FDA/EPA health advisory from 2004 suggests that women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children should limit their intake of seafood due to risks associated with mercury contamination. In 2006, the Codex Alimantarius Commission, a joint FAO/WHO food standards body, set a new threshold of 2 ppm cadmium for marine bivalve molluscs (excluding oysters and scallops) due to human health risk. With the current scientific and media attention to metals in seafood, has a consumer ever asked you what the levels of metals are in your farmed shellfish? When Ed Rhodes (former ECSGA Director) manned an ECSGA booth a few years ago at the Eastern States Exposition, a multi-state agricultural fair in the northeast, by far the number one question that he heard from the general public was ‘how much mercury is there in clams/oysters?’ Unfortunately, Ed did not have an answer to that question at that time. His response, or rather his lack of a response, is about to change!


Through the efforts of ECSGA Executive Director Bob Rheault working with Senator Jack Reed and his staff from Rhode Island, funding was secured in 2008 to conduct a study of the overall levels of heavy metals in farmed shellfish grown along the Atlantic Coast of the US. While there is no recognized health risk from metals in shellfish and FDA/EPA lists them as a preferred seafood consumer product, there is little information specific to farmed shellfish that can be called on to address questions such as those asked of Ed at the Big E. To remedy this information need, researchers at Roger Williams University (Bristol, RI) are currently collecting samples of farmed shellfish from Maine to Florida. The oyster and clam samples are being processed and analyzed for a variety of heavy metals using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS), located at the RI-INBRE Research Core Facility at the University of Rhode Island. Through this analytical equipment, we will be able to analyze for a variety of metals including cadmium, zinc, chromium, selenium, lead, and 20 other elements. Additionally, we are measuring the levels of mercury in shellfish samples using the analytical laboratory at Roger Williams University. When the study is completed in 2009, this information will be provided to shellfish farmers throughout the ECSGA region as a resource for responding to consumer inquiries about metals in your farmed products.


To date, we have sampled clams and oysters from Maine to New Jersey and are currently processing the tissues for analysis. We are interested in sampling more oysters and clams from Atlantic coastal states ranging from Maryland to Florida. If you are a shellfish farmer in these states and would be willing to donate 40 live oysters or hard clams for analysis, please contact Dale Leavitt at Roger Williams University ( or 401-450-2581) to arrange for shipment. Any data we generate will be reported specifically back to the farmer providing the shellfish; however, when the data are published for general information, we will ensure that  individual  farms will  not be specified  and that the results will be provided with only the state as the local site identifier.


The initial part of the study has focused on mercury content of farmed oysters. The oyster samples analyzed so far (eight samples from four farms) have mercury levels in the range of 0.011 to 0.060 ppm mercury in the edible soft tissue (mean 0.030 ppm mercury ± 0.016). This range is equivalent to the mercury levels reported by the FDA for wild oysters (range 0.00 to 0.250 ppm with a mean of 0.013 ppm ± 0.042) and is far below the safe consumption threshold set by FDA/EPA of 1 ppm. The current mercury data indicate that oysters are an extremely safe food item for all consumers and warrants listing as a preferred seafood consumer product.


If anyone has questions or would like more information, please contact Dale at the mobile phone number or email address listed above.



Food Grade Oil to Prevent Sea Squirt Fouling

by Jiselle Bakker, Jeff Davidson, Christine Paetzold, Pedro Quijon

University of Prince Edward Island



Sales from mussel processing plants generated $48.7 million for Prince Edward Island (PEI) in 2004 (DFO 2006). Producers’ maintenance costs have increased with the spread of invasive ascidians into PEI waters which foul aquaculture gear (Thompson and MacNair 2004). The most recently arrived of four new tunicate species, Ciona intestinalis, is the most detrimental, with the longest reproductive period and a high capacity for fast accumulation of biomass (Ramsay et al. 2008). Current labour-intensive methods to control C. intestinalis populations include pressure-washing and farm management practices (Thompson and MacNair 2004, DFO 2006). This study focused on preventing the settlement of C. intestinalis and other fouling organisms on mussel aquaculture gear using a layer of food grade vegetable oil with a melting point higher than the maximum water temperature of PEI estuaries.


Lab experiments compared the adhesiveness of two oils, shortening and coconut oil, to ropes and mussels in replicates of three. A Soxhlet extraction showed no difference in amount of oil attached to rope sections, but based on qualitative laboratory observations, shortening was selected for field trials because it formed a thicker, more uniform layer.

A field trial with four different substrates was conducted between July and August 2008. Five treated (shortening) and five untreated (control) buoys, spat collector and collector plate ropes and six mussel socks (50cm) per treatment were deployed in St. Mary’s Bay, PEI, for one month on a mussel longline. Treatment was accomplished by dipping dry gear into a vat of liquid shortening heated by a petroleum boiler. The mussel socks were lifted from the water, treated, and immediately returned to the water. After retrieval, weights and lengths of C. intestinalis and other fouling weights were measured.


Results indicate that the treated gear had significantly less biofouling than the controls. Treatment reduced Ciona intestinalis abundance and weight and other biofouling weight (other biofouling category included Molgula sp., Botryllus schlosseri, Styela clava and algae) significantly (p<0.05) on all substrates except mussel socks although C. intestinalis density was significantly lower on treated socks. Algae was found to be more prominent in terms of weight on control buoys and spat collectors, accumulating more biomass than the other fouling organisms, whereas C. intestinalis was the primary fouler on the control mussel socks.


Interestingly, very little spat was found on spat collector ropes, treated or untreated. Based on visual observations of the spat collector plate ropes, the layer of shortening did reduce spat settlement.


A young set of C. intestinalis and Styela clava was noted on some treated buoys upon retrieval and analysis of equipment. There was no significant difference between control and treatment in mussel shell length and mussel sock density; the difference in mussel weight was slightly significant (p=0.028).


Observations noted during the lab experiments indicate that the temperature of the oil at the time of application may impact the thickness of the layer of oil on a substrate. When rope subsections were dipped in shortening at higher temperatures, it did not adhere as well as when the oil was at a lower temperature, closer to its melting point.


The cost of treating a Styrofoam floater buoy was $0.10; a 50 cm mussel sock was $0.61; and for a spat collector of a length of 1.83 m, it was $0.12.


Further research is needed to determine the persistence and effectiveness of shortening in reducing biofouling over a period of time in order to determine its cost effectiveness before integration into farm management practices is practical. Treated and control buoys are currently deployed in PEI waters over winter to gauge the effects of cooler temperatures on the solid layer of oil coating the substrate. Other vegetable grade oils could prove to have the same capacities in reducing biofouling as the shortening and could lead to finding substances that have greater adherence to the mussel shells while remaining benign to farmed organisms. The shortening treatment could also be considered for application on small mesh bags (6 - 9mm) used for juvenile oysters which may significantly improve the growth of the oysters if the treatment delays fouling buildup as found on other materials.


Please feel free to direct any questions or comments to the primary author at




DFO. 2006. An Economic Analysis of the Mussel Industry in Prince Edward Island. Policy and Economics Branch, Gulf Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. Available online at .


Ramsay A, Davidson J, Landry T, Stryhn H. 2008. The effect of mussel seed density on tunicate settlement and growth for the cultured mussel, Mytilus edulis. Aquaculture. 275: 194-200.


Thompson R, MacNair N (2004) An overview of the clubbed tunicate (Styela clava) in Prince Edward Island. PEI Dept Agri Fish Aqua Forest: Fish Aqua Tech Rep 234: 29pp

Jiselle Bakker and her research


2009 Seafood Summit, San Diego

by Ed Rhodes



A conference centered on the topic of seafood sustainability and billed as the “Seafood Summit” was held in San Diego from February 1-3, 2009.  You can tell that the meeting was important since the sessions on Sunday occurred at the same time as the Super Bowl!  The meeting theme, “Sharing Responsibility for Real Change” reflects the conference goal of bringing together people from the whole seafood spectrum and from the NGO community to discuss and debate a range of issues and actions.  There were nearly 500 attendees from 35 countries and included fishermen, fishing groups, seafood purchasers, seafood distributors, grocery and restaurant chains, chefs and a flock of representatives from every NGO you can think of.


The good news is the general recognition that shellfish aquaculture is sustainable and that shellfish make positive contributions to the environment.  On the other hand, there is still a lot of opposition to almost every other kind of aquaculture, and the industry is often painted with a broad-brush.  It continues to be in our best interest to support sustainable aquaculture to help change this broad, negative public opinion.


Ocean acidification was a common theme at the conference, and a key address by Jeremy Jackson from Scripps was especially dramatic in terms of the consequences.  His lecture, to a overflow crowd, used much of the same information that ECSGA representatives presented in Washington during the recent walk on the Hill.  There is growing interest in ocean acidification and an awareness that this result of climate change may be responsible for some dramatic change in the ability of bivalves and other calcareous organisms to survive.


NGOs started holding an annual Summit about ten years ago, and the first few were NGO-only sessions to figure out how to best attack aquaculture and the fishing industry.  In the last few years the Summits have been open to broader participation.  Although the tone of much of the conference is very “green” there is at least open discussion and debate on the issues,  and the progress being made toward sustainable fisheries and aquaculture is front and center.


For more information on the conference including abstracts of the various sessions, the power point presentations from many of the speakers and a full list of participants with their contact information go to:




Letter from the ECSGA President


Dear Members,


The Economic Stimulus has passed both Houses of Congress and it seems as if it is all most people are talking about. I don’t think any of that taxpayer money is earmarked for “Oysters and Shellfish”. We, the Shellfish Industry, must work and trade our way out of the doldrums that confront us. So, what else is new! The Shellfish Community has always been typified by hard working, diligent entrepreneurs who put their lives and fortunes at risk to produce a good product.


In this tough economy it has never been more important to have a strong vibrant trade association represent us. The East Coast Shellfish Growers Association should continue to be a part of the operating expenses that are a vital part of your business. We continue to work with regulators at the Federal, state and local level as well as communicating regularly with the Gulf Coast and Pacific Coast Shellfish Associations to keep all of our businesses from being over-regulated.


The ECSGA continues to develop and look for new ways to promote shellfish. Why don’t you join us and let’s work together to protect our industry.




Tom Kehoe

President, ECSGA



Romancing the Clam


Following the highly successful Oyster Tasting at last year's National Shellfisheries Association meeting in Rhode Island, the ECSGA decided to team up with our colleagues at the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association to host a “clam tasting” at this year’s NSA meeting in March. The event will be held at the historic Bryson Hall in Savannah, Georgia and will feature cultured clams from across America.


Seven chefs from seven states will prepare regional clam dishes for an audience of clam lovers and food writers. The whole idea is to promote the eating of sustainably-farmed clams. Each preparation will be video recorded and posted on YouTube and the DVD and recipe cards of the preparations will be used to help market clams to seafood dealers nationwide.


The Cedar Key Aquaculture Association and the University of Florida Aquatic Food Products Lab will oversee a flavor characterization of raw clams from the different regions, similarly to what they did for oysters.


Come and sample clam dishes from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington, and root for your favorites: hard clams/quahogs, Manila clams, geoducks and even the sunray venus clam.


This is great opportunity to learn about clam farming from the growers, while schmoozing with chefs and enjoying a variety of clam dishes from across the country.



SAVE THE DATE: March 23rd, 2009 from 7 to 9 PM at Bryson Hall (Chippewa Square). Don't be left out! - only 100 tickets will be sold. Tickets are available through the ECSGA website.


For information contact Cassie Davis (912) 598-2348 or


Neanderthals Dined On Shellfish

Kathy Rhodes

ECSGA Administrator


Evidence that Neanderthals had more sophisticated tastes than their caveman image suggests has been uncovered in caves on the Rock of Gibraltar.  An international team led by Chris Stringer at the Natural History Museum in London and Clive Finlayson at the Gibraltar Museum have excavated flint stone tools and remnants of seafood meals alongside cinders which have been carbon-dated to around 28,000 years ago.  Bones of seals and dolphins as well as oyster and mussel shells suggest that Neanderthals didn’t only eat land animals, although bones of deer, boar, bear, and rabbit were also found. 


The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that Neanderthals lived in the caves and exploited the plentiful resources that the Mediterranean shoreline provided, which may help explain why groups living in Gibraltar clung on to life while those elsewhere became extinct around 7,000 years earlier.



Upcoming Events


Milford Aquaculture Seminar, February 23-25, 2009 in Meriden, Connecticut.  Including the ECSGA Annual meeting!


Northeastern Eelgrass Workshop, February 24-25, 2009 in Portland, Maine.


International Boston Seafood Show, March 15-17, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts.


National Shellfisheries Association meeting, March 22-26, 2009 in Savannah, Georgia.


Gulf and South Atlantic States Shellfish Conference, April 13-16 in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Aquaculture CanadaOM, May 10-13, 2009 in Nanaimo, British Columbia.


International Conference on Molluscan Shellfish Safety, June 14-19, 2009 in Nantes, France.


Links to more information are available on the Upcoming Events page of the ECSGA website.



USDA Releases Data on Shellfish Imports and Exports


In January 2009, The USDA ERS released its latest data on imports and exports of shellfish.  You can view the whole report at:  


The value of clam imports declined slightly in the past four years (after peaking in 06) from $53.8M in 2003 to $51.7M in 2007. Over the same period the price per pound appears to have increased from $1.56/lb in 2003 to $1.69/lb in 2007.

They report exports of $41M on 12.5Mlb, or $3.3/lb in 2007.


For comparison, Virginia reported an average price of 13 cents per littleneck and approximately 13.5 necks per pound, for a value of about $1.82.


 Oyster imports over the same period increased about 10% by weight and 27% by value to about $54M, but declined in 2007 and 2008.


NACE 2008 in Portland, Maine

by Dana Morse, Maine Sea Grant

Chris Davis, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center

Sebastian Belle, Maine Aquaculture Association

NACE 2008 Co-Chairs


NACE ’08 Plenary Sesson

Photo by Chris Davis

The Northeast Aquaculture Conference and Expo 2008 was held on December 3-5th, at the Eastland Park Hotel, in Portland, Maine. Over 200 attendees and 26 commercial and educational vendors filled the Eastland to capacity, during the welcome reception, technical program, trade show and auction.  ECSGA had a strong presence, having sponsored the event, participated in the exposition, and organizing help and seafood donations for the reception. Dr. John Kraeuter gave an update on the new East Coast Shellfish Research Institute, and ECSGA Executive Director Dr. Bob Rheault was a featured speaker in the opening plenary session.







Field trips at NACE


Four field trips were held on December 3rd, to local sites of interest to aquaculturists. Attendees were treated to visits to The Provasoli-Guillard National Center for the Culture of Marine Phytoplankton (CCMP) in Boothbay Harbor; the Darling Marine Center in Walpole; Great Bay Aquaculture, LLC., in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; and to the mussel raft site in Casco Bay owned and operated by Tollef Olson, of Aqua Farms, LLC.  Later that day, NACE attendees enjoyed a welcome reception, with music by Old Grey Goose, oysters on the half shell, smoked salmon, and steamed mussels, all donated by industry partners: Winterpoint Oyster Company, Glidden Point Oyster Company, Pemaquid Mussel Company, Cooke Aquaculture, Ninigret Cups from Rob Krause, Rome Point LLC, and Matunuk Oyster Farm.


Guest Speakers From Industry


NACE 2008 featured other presentations from people in the industry, so that all the attendees could hear directly from people who make their living every day in the business of growing, selling, distributing, and serving aquaculture products. Presenters included George Nardi of Great Bay Aquaculture ('The Future of Marine Finfish Culture'), Jean Lamontagne, of Cooke Aquaculture ('The Seafood Consumer - Brief Overview and Insights'), Jim Markos of Maine Shellfish Co. 'Aquaculture and the Seafood Specialist, Past, Present and Future') and Melissa Kelly, of Primo Restaurants ('A Restaurateur's Perspective in Sourcing Aquaculture Products').


Technical Program


The main component of the NACE program is the technical session, which had three tracks, similar to the event in 2006: Finfish, Shellfish and Tech Transfer Workshops. Presentations covered a lot of ground, including breeding and genetics, feed development, new species, aquaculture production systems, marketing and environmental interactions, and much more. The full program brochure, complete with abstracts and presenter information is available on the NACE 2008 website:




The event also featured a long-standing tradition at NACE - a live auction. Kim Tetrault of the Southold Program in Aquaculture Training (SPAT), through Cornell Cooperative Extension, provided the auctioneer services - complete with tuxedo and top hat! - and items were donated by vendors and individuals alike. The auction raised well over $1,000, to be used for student support to attend the 2010 NACE, and it proved to be a lively event, with a highlight being the spontaneous auctioning of the last donated oyster - provided that Bob Rheault would feed it to the winning bidder. That bidder turned out to be ECSGA Secretary Karen Rivara of AEROS Shellfish in CT. The event was captured on film, and photos are sure to turn up at future shellfish events.


 Bob Rheault shucking         

Bob Rheault shucks oysters                                    Karen slurps Bob’s shucked oyster

Photos by Cory Hermann


Support and Future Steps:


NACE 2008 enjoyed strong financial support from the Northeast Regional Aquaculture Center, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, Farm Credit of Maine, USDA-Farm Service Agency, USDA - CSREES, the University of Maine, and from Sea Grant programs in the region, the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources, and the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association.  The vendors also make NACE a strong and productive show, given the range of products, expertise and services they provide. NACE vendors are still posted on the event website, for customers to browse and contact.


To keep the many and varied investments in NACE alive, program organizers will be working on collecting as many individual presentations as possible, and serving them from the NACE website, which has links to our sponsors and vendors. This archived information should be of use to growers and others who were not able to be present at the event, or who would like to follow up with presenters individually.


Planning for NACE 2010 is already underway, so stay tuned for future announcements. For all the conference organizers, sponsors and vendors, thank you for a great NACE 2008!


If You Are Not On The ECSGA Discussion List

If you are not on the ECSGA discussion LIST you are MISSING OUT on the most of the current and relevant news about shellfish issues. 


You can view archives as well as join or leave the list easily from the website:  (It’s considerably easier than it used to be.)  That link can be found on the ECSGA website.



ECSGA Officers


Tom Kehoe, Interim President

Tommy Leggett, Vice President

Karen Rivara, Secretary

Gef Flimlin, Treasurer

For advertising rate information contact
Bob Rheault (401) 783-3360


The mission of the ECSGA is to promote responsible commercial shellfish aquaculture through market research and promotion, active involvement in public education, participation in policy formation at the state and national levels, and directed research.