1623 Whitesville Rd.
Toms River, NJ 08755
What is going on in DC?
It seems like we hear almost daily about huge sums of dollars flowing out of Washington in what amounts to a river of stimulus money. Some of our members applied for some of the $400M in Coastal Restoration Grants that NOAA was touting last month, and there are several more stimulus programs brewing that could impact our industry. It is sometimes difficult to keep track of all the programs and projects.
I traveled to Washington DC in mid-May to meet with several lawmakers trying to drum up support for one particular project I am starting to get excited about. This Fall I started thinking about the potential for an East Coast version of the Molluscan Broodstock Program housed at the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University. Stan Allen (an industry-leading geneticist from Virginia Institute of Marine Science) brought me up to date on efforts he had initiated to establish a mid-Atlantic collaboration and I started asking about how we might broaden that effort to include a coast-wide project.
Stan refined the concept at a molluscan genetics workshop held in Georgia at the NSA meeting in April and I started seeing if I could generate some political support for a significant multi-year effort.
Meetings with Jeff Silverstein, who heads the Aquaculture section of the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS), we encouraging and Senator Reed’s (D-RI) office was also cautiously supportive. Last week I learned that Senator Reed submitted an appropriations request for $3M to establish an East Coast Breeding and Genetics Consortium that would involve collaborators in as many as six states. It will be miraculous if the proposal survives the budget process in this fiscal year, but we have great support from several key Senators and crazy things are happening in DC this year, so I am cautiously optimistic.
Over the next few months we may be calling on you to contact your Senator to ask him or her to support this initiative. If the project gets funded it will allow us to sequence the genome and unlock the genetic basis of disease resistance and identify the genes associated with various production characteristics such as growth rate and shape. This will greatly accellerate our efforts to select for lines of clams and oysters that grow well in different aras.
While I was in DC I met with eight key Senators from six states and attended a fund-raising dinner for Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Rep. DeLauro has been a great ally to our industry for years. She has saved the NMFS Lab in Milford from the chopping block on numerous occasions and last year arranged for a significant grant to go the East Coast Shellfish Research Institute to evaluate the positive and negative impacts of aquaculture and mechanical harvest on the benthic ecology. Rosa Chairs the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee has powerful appointments on several key committees. Thanks to all those who supported Rosa.
Bob Rheault, Executive Director
by Kathy Rhodes, ECSGA Administrator
Maryland, Virginia and the Army Corps of Engineers have agreed that restoration of the native, American oyster, Crassostrea virginica, is preferred for Chesapeake Bay over the introduction of the Suminoe oyster, C. ariakensis. In April, they announced their agreement to identify a native-only restoration strategy as the preferred alternative in the final environmental impact statement (EIS) which is due to be published in late June. A 30-day public comment period will follow publication of the final EIS, with a formal Record of Decision expected to be published in late July. The Governors of Maryland and Virginia praised the decision.
Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine said, “Virginia has long been committed to finding solutions that address the decline in oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and we're proud of the collaborative progress we've made through a strong regional partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland, and federal agencies. While we have seen certain promise in ariakensis aquaculture from the Virginia Seafood Council trials over the past seven years, we agree, based on the recommendations of our Virginia Institute of Marine Science, that moving forward we should focus primarily on restoring the Bay's native oyster. We're pleased the Corps will allow for possible continued ariakensis experiments under tightly-controlled conditions so that we can continue answering scientific questions in the future.”
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley said, “Over the past two years, the State of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia have built an unprecedented partnership to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its living resources. I am extremely pleased that, together with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we have reached an agreement on a preferred oyster restoration alternative, one that will not threaten the Bay's already stressed ecosystem. We look forward to finalizing this process over the next few months, and to collaborating with our partners in Virginia to use new science developed through this extraordinary study to support both the ecological restoration of our native oyster and the revitalization of our oyster industry with emphasis on new aquaculture opportunities.”
The Executive Committee structure and complete joint statement agreed to by the Committee can be found on the Maryland DNR website:
by Tom Kehoe, ECSGA President
Report on the ESE- The European Seafood Exposition, Brussels, April 28-30, 2009
Eight halls in the Parc de Expositions in Brussels are filled for these three days in a spectacular display of seafood and shellfish from all around the world. Shellfish in Europe is a more deeply rooted part of the culinary culture than here in the states as several of the companies that I spoke to were 4th and 5th generation operators and quite proud of it.
The numerous varieties of clams, oysters and other shellfish, coupled with sophisticated retail packaging makes a visit to the European Seafood Exposition a visual delight. As you traverse the many aisles one gets to see the regional and national differences that are proudly on display. One particular company from Seville, Spain stands out in my mind, as they had a beautiful circular bar where seafood tapas were generously served alongside of sliced Black Foot Ham and a delightful Spanish wine.
A visit to this old European city is historically a thrill with ancient winding cobbled streets inhabited by friendly merchants and residents. If you’re thinking of attending the 2010 ESE plan now as hotels are very expensive, ranging 300-400 Euros per night. The cost aside, the ESE in Brussels is a trip I encourage each one of you to consider making as the exposure to the rest of the Shellfish World is one worth getting.
by Kathy Rhodes, ECSGA Administrator
Nantucket Bay Scallops were served at the new administration’s first black-tie dinner. In February, the White House hosted the 2009 Governors' Dinner with a menu of all-American, organic and sustainable foods. The Governors were in DC for the National Governers’ Association meeting.
For the main course, scallops were served with Wagyu Beef accompanied by glazed red carrots, portobello mushroom and creamed spinach. That dish was pared with an Archery Summit (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Estate” 2004 wine.
Gabrielle Redner of Slow Foods says they are excited that an Ark of Taste Food is being featured at the White House. And ECSGA Board member, Rick Karney says, “It's great news, that Obama loves bay scallops! Now there is proof that they belong in the Slow Food Ark of Taste! And, I understand he loves oysters, too. I guess that's what makes him so smart.”
Make your plans now! The ECSGA Annual meeting will be held in Williamsburg, Virginia in conjunction with the Virginia Aquaculture Conference, November 13-14, 2009. “This is a very nice time to visit ‘Billsburg;”, says Mike Oesterling and the meeting is scheduled for Friday and Saturday to allow attendees time to enjoy the area.
The agenda is currently being finalized, but the Friday afternoon session will focus on marketing, Saturday morning’s plenary session will focus on sustainability and Saturday afternoon will feature concurrent sessions on freshwater and saltwater culture issues.
Location: Lexington Hotel, George Washington Inn & Conference Center, Williamsburg, VA
Registration: $75 early; $95 late - includes Gala Aquaculture Reception, lunch Saturday, etc. http://www.vaaquacultureconference.com/
Sponsorships are is available!
Exhibit space is available!
Contact Mike Oesterling, with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-684-7165.
by Gef Flimlin, Rutgers Cooperative Extension ECSGA Treasurer
NSA met at the end of March in Savannah Georgia, a beautiful city perched on the river with gorgeous parks and squares, making it a great place to get out and walk. The actual meeting was at the Marriott Savannah Riverfront Hotel situated on the river at the end of the touristy Riverwalk. The climate was perfect for late March and for the northerners, that change in temperature was most welcome.
The event started with the President’s reception on Sunday evening in the vast hotel Atrium with flags of the Olympic Games hanging overhead with great seafood collected from supportive industry partners coordinated by John Supan from LSU. The raw bar was accentuated by perfectly cooked dishes prepared by the kitchen staff from the hotel.
On Monday morning, the actual program began with sessions of interest to the industry like Shellfish and the Environment, Managing Perkinsus, and Blue Crab Biology and Fisheries. In the afternoon talks focused on the Threat of Human and Shellfish Vibrios and Crustacean Fishery Management.
The second day offered talks on Shellfish Genetics, Issues with DNA-based Parasite Diagnostic Methods and the Industry Session called “Out on the Water.”
This session examined topics of true interest to commercial shellfish growers like the Effects of Predator Exclusion Devices for Geoduck Clams, Searching for Solutions for the Impediments to Shellfish Hatchery Production in the Northwest, the results of a taste test of hard clams from different states titled, Sensory Characterization Program for Mercenaria species, Field Tests for Triploid American Oysters in Massachusetts and Single Oyster Aquaculture in South Carolina. Afternoon sessions discussed Microalgae Culture, New Initiatives in North Carolina, Louisiana’s Oyster Fishery, Evaluations of the Sunray Venus Clam in Florida both in field trials and taste tests. More of the industry session looked at non-point source pollution, cage culture of hard clams in Georgia, the mass production on oysters, clam marketing strategies, and a novel way of including Water Quality Stewards in SC through their recreational shellfish aquaculture program.
Other sessions included Shellfish Quality and Safety, Shellfish Restoration and Enhancement, Diseases, Invasive Species, Health Management, and other basic science discussions about environmental influences, molluscan ecology, crustacean health management, and shell formation.
All in all the meeting was a great success, since not only were there fascinating papers presented but there was the always popular Student Auction and although not actually part of the NSA Annual Meeting, there was an event sponsored by the ECSGA called “Romancing the Clam” where chefs from all over the country came to present a local clam dish mainly focused on hard clams, but the Sunray Venus Clam from Florida was a big hit as were the Manila and Geoducks from Washington State.
On either side of the meeting, the ECSGA held two scoping sessions with shellfish growers in Florida and Georgia to discuss the Development of a Code of Practice and Best Management Practices. Like all the other meetings, the interaction with industry was great and their input was exceptional.
All of the organizers of the meeting did a great job and when NSA is near you, you should make it a point to come and interact with the scientific community that does the research on the species you grow. You may learn something and more importantly, you may teach them something.
by Bob Rheault, Executive Director
I was pleased to be among a small group of people selected to be on the Global Steering Committee (GSC) for the World Wildlife Fund’s Bivalve Aquaculture Dialog. The GSC met for the first time April 25-27 in WWF offices in Brussels to try to hammer out a draft set of standards for the establishment of a set of standards for an eco-label / sustainability-label for our industry. The goal of the Dialogue is to create measurable, performance-based standards that will help minimize the key environmental and social impacts associated with shellfish aquaculture. The GSC is composed of a mix of growers, scientists and NGOs from three continents – all shellfish experts.
I must admit I went into the meeting with much cynicism and trepidation, fearing that there was great opportunity for the wheels to come off and the process to metastasize into an abomination similar to the USDA’s Proposed Organic Standards. I had attended several preliminary Dialog meetings where the broad outlines were laid out, but I perceived significant challenges in reaching consensus around issues like: What is a significant impact? How can we agree on acceptable standards? And how can we develop practical ways of monitoring and measuring performance so that certification is affordable?
Fortunately we had a bunch of smart, creative people in the room for three days, and I think we were largely successful. With a professional mediator as shepherd and referee, we had frank discussions about difficult issues. I am guessing that when the draft standards are released for comment, most growers will be pleased to find out that they will not have to change much of what they do to qualify for the certification.
GSC members will continue to work on refining the draft standards over the summer and we hope to release draft standards for comment in the fall. Meanwhile the WWF has announced the formation of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) as a counterpoint the Marine Stewardship Council which is a certification group that evaluates the sustainability of wild fisheries. It will likely take a few years to get the ASC up and running, and I will continue to stay engaged in the process to ensure that standards are realistic, practical and affordable.
Naysayers claim that the consumer doesn’t care about sustainability, but the larger buyers such as Sysco and Darden are driving the process and I think we can use this to our advantage as a marketing tool. It is hard for opponents to claim you are hurting the environment when you are certified sustainable. I have claimed for years that our industry was sustainable, and I am confident that this process will reinforce that claim. It will also push our industry to become even better stewards of the environment that we depend on for our way of life and it will help level the playing field for players in the global marketplace.
by Kathy Rhodes, ECSGA Administrator
The Maine Department of Marine Resources has proposed a number of amendments to its aquaculture lease regulations. Theses changes are mostly minor and designed to make the process easier for the farmers and the agency. Many of the proposed changes remove outdated provisions or clarify confusing language.
Perhaps the biggest change is in the schedule of annual rent charged for aquaculture leases. Currently the yearly rent for each lease is $100 per acre (plus the one-time application fee of $1,500 for no discharge leases.) In order to encourage wild mussel draggers to transition to aquaculture, the amendments reduce the rent to fifty dollars ($50) per acre per year for the first two years of the term of new leases for the bottom culture of blue mussels. This discount only applies to new leases from 2009, 2010, and 2011. Beginning with the third year of the term of the lease, the standard lease rent of one hundred dollars ($100) per acre per year will apply. Another amendment has been made to remove the requirement of cash or a certified check for payment of the application fee.
Other proposed changes adds sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) to the approved species list and adds a description of the gear used for scallop culture. The regulations also clarify the siting requirements for limited-purpose aquaculture (LPA) leases. While they still must be located below mean low water, it is now clear that they may be sited between extreme low water and mean low water. If an LPA is proposed in the intertidal zone in a municipality with a shellfish management program, there is a review step to ensure that it will not interfere with the municipal shellfish committee’s activities.
A new section on aquaculture lease site workers has been added which allows unlicensed individuals (except someone whose to shellfish harvester license has been suspended) to work under the authority of a licensed shellfish harvester on a shellfish aquaculture site. And a final proposed provision will permit the agency to provide application forms by e-mail with paper copies available upon request and this will help the Department save money. More information is available at the DMR’s website: http://www.maine.gov/dmr/lawsandregs.htm.
by Kathy Rhodes, ECSGA Administrator
In early May, Maryland’s Governor signed a new Shellfish Aquaculture Leasing bill that should make it easier for shellfish farmers. It’s the first time in 103 years that the leasing laws of Maryland have been changed to encourage industry growth.
“Expanding opportunities for shellfish aquaculture in Maryland waters is vital to the health and economic prosperity of the Chesapeake and coastal bays,” said Governor O'Malley. “These changes will not only help restore important aquatic populations - like our native oyster - but also create jobs for Maryland's working families.” Before encouraging this legislation, the Governor visited shellfish aquaculture businesses including Great Eastern Chincoteague Oysters and Gordon's Shellfish, LLC.
The new law gets rid of the classification of Natural Oyster Bars that have been off limits to leasing for the last century. Most of the historical bars have died off long ago. The bill should lead to thousands of new acres being available for lease.
The bill continues to allow leases to residents but for the first time makes them available to non-residents and corporations. It removes size restrictions on the amount of land that can be leased, and mandates production standards that ensure that leases are actively used.
New areas for surface and water column production are authorized as Aquaculture Enterprise Zones. State will hold the federal permit holder for these and sublease plots to private growers. This will cut down the time required for individuals to obtain permits, help spur private investment, and help commercial watermen to transition into aquaculture. Twenty-five percent of AEZs will be held for current watermen until 2011, to encourage this transition.
The new bill supersedes most of the past century’s laws on shellfish aquaculture. The Aquaculture Coordinating Council recommended that regulatory authority be granted to agencies for flexibility rather than relying on the passage of laws that had bogged down the previous leasing program.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture's Aquaculture Development and Seafood Marketing Program assists aquaculture related businesses in becoming established within the state of Maryland. The MDA Aquaculture Coordinator is the primary source for general aquafarming information including, permit requirements, regulations, and best management practices.
by Kathy Rhodes, ECSGA Administrator
A Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) study provides the first documented evidence that oysters function differently now than they did in the early 1600s. Eastern oysters were very important members of the Chesapeake Bay ecology before the Europeans arrived, but four centuries of harvest pressure, habitat degradation, and, more recently, disease have affected the Bay’s oyster population.
Juliana Harding, Roger Mann and Melissa Southworth compared age-at-shell length relationships for modern oysters in the James River with oyster shells that were collected by early European colonists. Archaeologists had found the ancient shells in a 1609-1616 well that had been used as a trash pit by colonists of the James Fort in Jamestown, VA. The 400-year-old oysters were younger than modern oysters of the same size. The researchers concluded that modern oysters larger than 30-40 mm shell length (older than about one year) grow more slowly than historic oysters of comparable ages.
Unlike historic oysters, modern James River oysters are affected by the diseases Dermo and MSX. The downward trend observed in the modern age at length relationship between 1 to 1.6 years of age is probably related to the seasonal onset of disease with increasing temperatures. Observed changes in oyster demographics and growth rates across four centuries reflect changes in the environment as well as changes in oyster biology because of chronic pressure from two oyster diseases.
Dr. Mann pointed out that an oyster functions like an environmental barometer, recording everything that's happened at spot where it lives throughout its entire life. The slower growth rate of modern oysters may be the result of changes in water quality or sedimentation, diseases, or a combination of these factors. Although oysters can live ten to twenty years, most modern Chesapeake Bay 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," said Dr. Harding. "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 were published in the Journal of Shellfish Research.
International Conference on Molluscan Shellfish Safety, June 14-19, 2009 in Nantes, France.
All Things Organic™ Conference and Trade Show, June 16-18, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.
1st Annual Buzzards Bay Shellfish Bash, July 18, 2009 in Onset, Massachusetts.
Annual Milford Oyster Festival, August 14-15, 2009 in Milford, Connecticut.
12th International Conference on Shellfish Restoration (ICSR), September 15-18, 2009 in Prince Edward Island, Canada.
National Fisheries Institute (NFI) Annual Meeting, September 23-25, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
World Aquaculture 2009, September 25-29, 2009 (postponed from May) in Veracruz, Mexico.
Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) Biennial Meeting, October 17-23, 2009 in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Maine Coastal Waters Conference, October 28, 2009 in Northport, Maine.
Virginia Aquaculture Conference, November 13-14, 2009 in Williamsburg, Virginia including the ECSGA Annual Meeting.
Aquaculture 2010 (Triennial meeting with NSA, WAS, and AFS/Fish Culture Section)
National Shellfisheries Association (NSA) 102nd Annual Meeting, March 1-5, 2010 in San Diego, California.
Links to more information are available on the Upcoming Events page of the ECSGA website. www.ECSAG.org
by Kathy Rhodes, ECSGA Administrator
An impressive collection of chefs showed off their best clam dishes on a lovely March evening in historic Bryson Hall on Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia. “Romancing the Clam” organized by the East Coast and Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Associations, was held during the 101st National Shellfisheries Association conference. It was a highly successful evening of bivalve delights.
The individual chefs had prepared their dishes in a filming session earlier during the day, and the resulting DVD will be available for seafood marketers to inspire their customers with some gourmet clam recipes.
Lucky guests at the evening tasting had the opportunity to try all the delicious recipes as well as a half shell clams from six states. The raw bar, hosted by the Cedar Key Aquaculture Association, set up outside among azaleas, tiny white lights and candles.
All of the clams used were farm-raised, guaranteeing their cleanliness and size consistency. Farmed shellfish are rated as a “best food choice” by sustainability experts because they are great for the environment and serve an important role in preserving healthy coastal waters. Farmed clams are an inexpensive, nutritious, and delicious seafood that are good for the environment too! “Clams are eco-friendly,” said Alan Power, assistant research scientist at the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service and one of the people instrumental in the success of the event. "It's different to fish farming because you're not introducing feed or antibiotics into the water," he said. “They grow without pesticides or herbicides.”
Results of a sensory evaluation conducted by the University of Florida were revealed. Attendees received an evaluation form like the UF expert panel used and were able to compare their tastes with the experts'. This was not a competition, but rather an opportunity to highlight the fine gastronomic qualities of clams.
An example of one crowd pleasing dish was Chef Peter Kornack’s Lowcountry Linguine which used a host of fresh ingredients ranging from country ham to lemon zest to diced fresh tomatoes -- simple, but oh! so flavorful.
Caterer Cal Berry of Augusta, Georgia was the local chef-representative at the event. Chef Berry, whose family once farmed Vidalia onions, said his "Clams Oconee" had a Peach State twist: "We use Vidalia onions, bacon and beer, of course." Makes your mouth water!
The delectable recipes presented were:
o Clams Oconee with Vidalia Onions & Bacon by Chef Cal Berry, Berry’s Catering & Floral, Augusta, Georgia
o Southwestern Clams with Tasso & Rouille by Chef Jeff Cincotta, Charles River Country Club, Newton Centre, Massachusetts
o Holiday Harbor Clams by Chef Philip Cragg, Academy of Culinary Arts, Mays Landing, New Jersey
o Manila Clams Sautéed Asian Style and Vietnamese Style Geoduck Salad by Chef Xinh Dwelley, Xinh’s Clam & Oyster House, Shelton, Washington
o Littleneck Soup by Chef William P. Edmondson III, Aqua Bay Creek Resort and Club, Cape Charles, Virginia
o Northern Neck Clams by Chef Joe Elliott, Providence Westin, Providence, Rhode Island
o Portuguese Clam Stew with Chorizo & Kale by Chef/Owner Peter Hoffman, Savoy and Back Forty Restaurants, New York, New York
o Lowcountry Linguine by Chef Peter Kornack, T. W. Graham & Co., McClellanville, South Carolina
o Florida Clams with Andouille Sausage & Plum Tomatoes and Florida Sunray Venus Clams with Fresh Citrus & Cilantro by Chef Peter Stefani, The Island Room Restaurant, Cedar Key, Florida
Many thanks to all who helped or provided clams. Recipe cards for all the preparations are available on the ECSGA website:
by Kathy Rhodes, ECSGA Administrator
Sex, Death and Oysters: A Half-Shell Lover’s World Tour was written by Houston journalist Robb Walsh, restaurant critic for the Houston Press and author of several TexMex cookbooks. The title of the book, unabashedly designed to get attention, was the title of a 2004 cover story which started Walsh on his oyster research. Of writing the book, he said, “It gave me a great excuse to go eat oysters in England, Ireland, France and Canada and in most of the places where oysters are grown in the U.S. I also managed to earn a place in the Acme Oyster Bar's 15 Dozen Club…”
He began writing about the Texas coastal environment and the bacterial risks of eating fresh raw shellfish. (That’s the “Death” in the title.) Along the way, he learned to love oysters and became a champion of our native American Crassostrea virginica. He says that eating a raw oyster is “at once perverse and spiritual.” In the book, he works his way from New Orleans to Long Island Sound and on to Paris, comparing differences in oyster quality and flavor between places and seasons. A major premise of the book is that oysters are best (and most safely) enjoyed “in season” at each locale. He experiments with the aphrodisiacal quality of oysters (the “Sex” of the title) but, mercifully, these stories are not told in detail.
This well-researched book includes many facts about oyster biology, history and trade. And Walsh is a gifted story teller. His interviews with curmudgeonly personalities involved in the harvest and culture of oysters are some of the most entertaining parts of the book. He interviewed some very knowledgeable people, among them Sammy Ray, Professor Emeritus at Texas A&M University and Honored Life Member of the National Shellfisheries Association. He talks with oyster restaurateurs, scientists, regulators, harvesters and farmers. He goes to festivals and he goes out on oyster boats. And he writes it all down in his easy style. Thsse result is a captivating mix of oyster biology and ecology, human history, love story and personal odyssey. And he even throws in a few oyster recipes.