1623 Whitesville Rd.

Toms River, NJ 08755




Volume 2:05

April 10th, 2005



From the Mouth of the Bay

It was a busy Spring for many of us with ECSGA activities dominating much of January. Several of us joined members of the PCSGA and GOIC on our annual trip to DC to visit with members of our congressional delegations to bring them up to speed on issues that concern us. We were far better organized this year thanks to staff help from the National Fisheries Institute and we met with close to two dozen Representatives and Senators.

            Two days later we held our Annual Meeting in Ocean City MD in conjunction with the Maryland Waterman’s Show. John Ewart and Gef Flimlin organized almost a full day of presentations that were excellent and informative. Bill Dewey from the PCSGA described a mechanized manila clam harvester developed from a tulip bulb harvesting apparatus that allows him and two helpers to harvest several palates of clams on a single tide. Bill Taylor of Taylor Shellfish gave a photo tour of his trip to China where a single manila clam farm produces billions of clams in a 16 acre hatchery and legions of harvesters walk or bicycle several miles out on the tidal flats in sub-zero weather to harvest a little over a hundred pounds of clams each for which they get the princely sum of a little over $10.

            All of the presentations were excellent and I will try and give summaries of the best of them in future newsletters.

            As we prepare for spring planting we are faced with the prospect of some bad press. We anticipate a report from the Center for Disease Control coming out this week will highlight failures by industry and regulators to stem the rate of illness from Vibrio vulnificus despite improvements in other sources of shellfish related illness. We also believe that CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest – a true misnomer) will capitalize on the opportunity to slam shellfish and call for post-harvest treatment of all Gulf Coast oysters as they do about every other year.

            The bad press will likely depress demand for all shellfish (in fact all fish) for a period. We are trying to be proactive by arming our members with talking points about Vibrio vulnificus so that we can be ready when reporters come calling. Please feel free to copy the talking points and fax them to your dealers and state shellfish health authorities.

Have a good spring.  Bob Rheault


ECSGA Goes to Washington - Again

Six ECSGA members spent a few days in Washington, D.C. in January “educating” Congress about issues important to the shellfish industry.  This is the second year that we have participated in the “Walk on the Hill” along with representatives from the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association and the Gulf Oyster Industry Council.

            The “Walk” begins with a session at the National Fisheries Institute where the three shellfish groups discuss the issues that need to be brought to the attention of Congress and to the Federal agencies that regulate our industry.  The issues discussed at the NFI session included Country of Origin Labeling, the Byrd Amendment and pending tariffs on U.S. oysters by Canada, H 2-B worker permits and their effects on shellfish shucking and crab picking, changes to sewage blending regulations by EPA, organic standards for shellfish, the Crassostrea ariakensis introduction to the Chesapeake, and international standards for cadmium in shellfish.  More on these issues and some additional ones can be found on the ECSGA website in the posted minutes from our annual meeting in Ocean City.

            Following the NFI meeting, six ECSGA members visited 17 senators and representatives over a 3-day period.  In the discussions with members of Congress and staffers we stressed 7 items.  These were the need for a more coordinated approach by Federal agency interactions on shellfish issues, the erosion of aquaculture funding by both NOAA and USDA, COOL labeling definitions of “wild” and “farm-raised” shellfish, the EPA sewage blending proposal that would reduce standards for treatment plants, the need for good science to address the introduction of the non-native ariakensis species, the need for assistance in shellfish marketing and crop insurance.  More detailed information on these issues can be found under “2005 Legislative Agenda” on the ECSGA website.

            Many thanks to Karen Rivara, Tommy Leggett, Tom Kehoe, Bob Rheault, Ed Rhodes, and George Mathis who represented us in D.C.


Vibrio Fact Sheet

The ECSGA, PCSGA and the GOIC, in conjunction with NFI have developed a fact sheet on Vibrio that can be used as an educational piece for our member companies and for the public press when or if there is some negative publicity about consuming raw

shellfish.  It includes solid information on vibrios and human disease, and highlights the National Shellfish Sanitation Program.  This fact sheet can be found on page 8 of this newsletter and on our website.


Annual Meeting a Success in Ocean City

The ECSGA annual meeting was held on January 28th in Ocean City in conjunction with the Maryland Waterman’s Show.  At least 28 members, representing 16 companies attended.

            Most importantly, we made some necessary changes to our by-laws to help us operate more effectively.  We also elected Tommy Leggett to be our new VP, replacing Tom Gallivan who recently stepped down.  ECSGA membership was discussed and the membership committee announced a goal to double membership in 2005. (You can join if you aren’t a member, and please encourage others to do so as well!)

Participation on ECSGA committees was also encouraged.  A list of standing committees and the full annual meeting minutes can be found on the ECSGA website.

            On the Saturday following the annual meeting, Gef Flimlin and John Ewart organized a shellfish symposium as part of the Waterman’s show.  This very successful session included 11 speakers on topics as diverse as ariakensis in the Chesapeake, aquaculture in China and Tasmania, manila and hard clam production and markets.  Special thanks to Bill Taylor and Bill Dewey for making the trip from the west coast to participate.

            The Ocean City meeting and symposium was so successful that some have suggested it as a permanent annual meeting site.  Our by-laws, however, have us holding meetings in the north, central and southern parts of our coast on a rotating basis.  We will be trying to find a venue in the south for our 2006 meeting – suggestions welcome!


Oysters, Clams and You Needed
 for Milford Oyster Festival

Plans are moving forward for ECSGA participation in the Milford (CT) Oyster Festival on August 20th.  We have been asked to provide the oyster concession for this one-day event that attracts about 100,000 people.  We will set up a raw bar and hope to serve oysters and clams from 8 or 10 of our growers. This event should be a money-generator for ECSGA and we are working on pricing scheme that will allow us to purchase product from our growers at a fair price and make a profit for the organization.

            So far we have targeted the sale of 10,000 pieces at the Festival.  We need you to step forward with product that will be in good shape in August.  And we need volunteers that can help shuck and talk up our terrific shellfish.  We plan to hire some pro shuckers but we can really use some ECSGA folks to help with this event.  Please contact Ed Rhodes if you are interested in contributing to this event and making it a success! 


Organic Shellfish

There are organic standards approved by the USDA for most livestock and plant crops in the U.S., but no such standards exist yet for products from aquaculture.  USDA’s National Organic Standards Board is attempting to extend their organic labeling program to aquaculture, and has made some progress with fish.  Recently a small group of east and west coast shellfish people put together a rough draft for proposed standards for organic shellfish.  Organic labeling may or may not be of real value to shellfish growers, but we want to at least make it an option for our industry.

            The final rules for shellfish, if they are ever accepted, are a long way off but so far to be considered “organic”:

·  Seed can come from a hatchery or from wild stocks in NSSP open waters.

·  No unapproved chemical treatments can be used in grow-out.

·  Overlying waters must meet or exceed NSSP and state standards.

·  Triploids are OK (lively discussion, but they are in for now).

·  Non-native species are OK, but methods must be employed to minimize escapes.

·  Strict adherence to post-harvest product temperatures and HAACP protocols.

·  Producer must have a farm plan to protect animal health.

            These draft organic rules could very well include most of the production by ECSGA

member companies.  The shellfish organics group believes that because our animals are not fed once in the field, and are in fact a “natural” product that this should be the case.  There will be strong opposition to this in the organics community because for agriculture only a small percentage of production passes muster as organic.  We will keep you posted on this issue as it moves through review.  If you have any comments on organic standards for shellfish, post it on the ECSGA list serve or contact Ed Rhodes.


Marketing Committee Meets at Boston Show

The Marketing Committee met on Sunday, March 13, 2005. The meeting was held at 5 PM when the Boston Seafood Show closed for Day 1. We met at the Boston Convention Center, which is the new and very exciting venue for the Boston Seafood Show.

 In attendance: Bob Rheault, Ed and Kathy Rhodes, Tom Kehoe, Brian Bowles, and Rob Garrison.

            The meeting lasted exactly one hour and the majority of the discussion centered around the proposal by Ed Rhodes that we participate in the Milford Oyster Festival, on August 20th, in Milford, Ct. All were in agreement that our organization {ECSGA} is in need of an activity like this festival that would elevate the profile of the ECSGA as well as raise some much needed cash for our group as well. The consensus of those at the meeting was that we did not need an activity to keep us busy as all were very busy with their respective endeavors; but we would support an event if it made ECSGA money.

     There was considerable discussion about what to charge for the oysters at an event like this as well as how many oysters would be sold and how many oysters could be opened by a shucker in a days work. All agreed that a few professional shuckers would have to be either recruited or kidnapped to make this work. In addition, it was discussed and agreed upon that we would need much participation from our membership not only in terms of providing help and members to shuck and work the booth but also in providing reasonably priced oysters for us to sell at the festival. We discussed that the maximum price ECSGA should or could afford to pay for the oysters would be in the 35-40 cent range.

     Ed, our executive director, also serves on the Milford Oyster Festival Committee and as such more information on this topic can be found elsewhere in this newsletter.


BMP Proposal Not Funded

The ECSGA proposal to develop Best Management Plans for the east coast shellfish industry was not funded by the Northeast Regional Aquaculture Center (NRAC).  The NRAC grant competition favored true research projects, and we didn’t make the cut.  At an NRAC-sponsored “shellfish summit” held in December BMP’s were identified as part of a solution for a number of issues, including public perception of aquaculture, improved company management and marketing.  The ECSGA will continue to seek funding for this work.


Milford Aquaculture Seminar

The Milford Lab of the National Marine Fisheries Service held its 25th aquaculture seminar from February 28th through March 2nd.  Walt Blogoslawski, an active ECSGA member has hosted this seminar from its inception.  This year there were more than 40 oral presentations and posters on topics from to pearl culture in the Solomon Islands.  Bill Walton, an ECSGA member led a successful shellfish predator workshop.

            There is some indication that Walt may

throw in the towel on future seminars (like he might actually retire!), but there is assurance from the Milford Lab that the series will continue.  Walt has been especially successful in keeping down the costs for the meeting, and in stimulating discussions on important and controversial issues.  The Milford aquaculture seminars have been important to the shellfish industry, and played a key part in the development of the ECSGA organization.  We hope they continue.


Spring is Here, and so is COOL

The Country of Origin Labeling rules went into effect on April 1st.  These rules apply to over 37,000 large retailers licensed under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, and exclude fish markets, exporters and food service establishments. Visit the COOL website  for detailed information.

            There has been considerable discussion with the Agriculture Marketing Service of the USDA on “wild” versus “farm-raised” definitions as they apply to shellfish.  There is a possibility that shellfish may become exempt from the COOL rules and this will apparently be proposed in the next farm bill that goes to Congress.  Meanwhile, it is necessary to comply with these regulations, although USDA has indicated their willingness to work with growers and distributors if problems with the program arise, especially during the first 6 months that the program is in effect.


Disease Standards for Shellfish

In mid-March the first meeting of a task force to explore a national program for shellfish diseases was held in Seattle with eleven participants from both coasts.  Ed Rhodes represented ECSGA at the workshop, and other east coast attendees were Fred Kern from the NOAA lab in Oxford, MD and Gene Burreson from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.  The workshop was one in a series for various aquatic species groups sponsored by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS), NOAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service under the auspices of the Federal Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture.  The mission of the task force is to develop a National Aquatic Animal Health Program that includes shellfish

            The goal of the workshop on mollusks was to take the first step toward having a national program that would protect our shellfish from diseases not yet known in U.S. waters or found only in isolated areas or regions.  The national program would meet the requirements of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), the international organization concerned with animal and plant health in agriculture, and the World Trade Organization.  In the U.S., APHIS has the lead in this area.

            Considerable time at the workshop was spent discussing specific known shellfish diseases and whether they should be listed as “diseases of concern” under OIE protocols.  The U.S. does not yet have diseases caused by the following pathogens:  Marteila chungmuensis, Marteila refringens, Bonamia exitiosus, Marteila sydneyi, Perkinsus olseni, and it was suggested that the U.S. have national control programs for these diseases.

            There is still a long way to go before there is a U.S. program for shellfish health.  Stay tuned to future ECSGA newsletters, our list serve and our website for periodic updates.


Vibrio Fact Sheet

  • Vibrio bacteria are very common and occur naturally in the marine environment and they are unrelated to pollution. Most do not cause illness. Two types of potentially illness-causing Vibrios are: 

    • Vibrio vulnificus (V.v.) a warm water species predominantly found in the Gulf of Mexico, and

    • Vibrio parahaemolyticus (V.p.) found along all the U.S. coasts may be found at certain times of the year, particularly in the warmer summer months in some raw molluscan shellfish – oysters, mussels and clams.

  •  V.v. can cause illness in certain high-risk, immune compromised individuals.  V.v. does present a risk of serious illness for those who have diabetes, cancer, HIV, liver disease and others who are immune-compromised. During periods of warm weather, V.p. can be present in shellfish in sufficient quantity to cause flu-like symptoms.

  • Molluscan shellfish in the United States has been the most highly regulated food since 1925 through a cooperative control program between the Food and Drug Administration, State regulatory agencies and the shellfish industry.  This program is called the National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP).  The NSSP regulates testing and evaluation of shellfish growing areas, criteria for the care and handling of shellfish, and requires harvesters and dealers to be licensed and certified.

  • Shellfish is packed under the FDA’s mandatory inspection program – the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) – that requires processors to identify and control significant food safety hazards.

  •  The oyster industry has increased its efforts to help safeguard at-risk consumers by making oysters available that have been treated by high-pressure, low-heat pasteurization, or freezing, all of which reduce vibrios to non-detectable levels.

  •  The NSSP and shellfish industry are tackling V.v. illness through intensive education of at-risk consumers and adoption of post harvest treatments. Control of V.p. illnesses is also being addressed through adherence to a control plan combining active surveillance of V.p. in harvest waters and shellfish with closures of harvest areas where the presence of illness-causing V.p. is found.

  • Consumers can avoid Vibrio illness by following current advice. At-risk consumers should enjoy their shellfish fully cooked or post harvest processed for added safety and should avoid other raw animal proteins.

  •  When purchasing shellfish:

    • Ask to see the shellfish tags showing the certificates of harvester and shipper,

    • Make sure the shellfish is stored under proper refrigeration or ice and, if you are bringing it home, store the shellfish in refrigeration immediately and keep it refrigerated until eaten.


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ECSGA Officers

Robert Rheault, President

Tommy Leggett, Vice President

Karen Rivara,. Secretary

Gef Flimlin, Treasurer


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 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.


                        Contents of this Issue

ECSGA Goes to Washington - Again                                             page 1

Vibrio Fact Sheet                                                                            page 1

Annual Meeting a Success in Ocean City                                      page 2

Oysters, Clams and You Needed for Milford Oyster Festival          page 2

Organic Shellfish                                                                             page 2

Marketing Committee Meets at Boston Show                              page 3

BMP Proposal Not Funded                                                             page 3

Milford Aquaculture Seminar                                                         page 4

Spring is Here, and so is COOL                                                     page 4

Disease Standards for Shellfish                                                      page 4