1623 Whitesville Rd.
Toms River, NJ 08755
If you live in New England I don’t have to tell you that this has been one of the strangest summers ever. Week after week of rain, low temperatures and cloudy skies have dampened spirits and closed growing areas. With summer two thirds gone we are hoping to see some sweltering days and some sunshine before hurricane season!
I have been busy on the political front trying to make sure that our leaders in DC are aware of our issues so they can make informed decisions. We appear to be making good progress towards finding funds to develop a Shellfish Breeding Center. This would allow us to expand current efforts to take advantage of new genetic tools to guide the development of disease resistant strains of clams and oysters and to improve production traits in select lines.
Our legislators in DC are consumed by discussions on health care and the economic crisis, so it is sometimes difficult for me to emphasize the importance of issues like research funding for shellfish. One of the biggest challenges I face is differentiating our industry from finfish aquaculture. Environmental groups have been swarming Capitol Hill attacking anything that is associated with aquaculture. In their zeal to block salmon aquaculture they have influenced lawmakers to cut NOAA’s aquaculture research dollars and are mobilizing to block offshore aquaculture initiatives. I often end up on the defensive, trying to explain to a new crop of young legislative aides how shellfish aquaculture has environmental benefits and is sustainable. We are the good guys who improve water quality and provide valuable habitat.
One of the best ways I see to make this distinction is to promote the idea of nutrient credit trading. A recent paper in Aquaculture (Ferreira et al. 2007) projects that shellfish farmers could double their profit margins if they were rewarded for the nitrogen and phosphate they remove from sensitive coastal waters. Most of the water quality issues that degrade our coastal waters are linked to excess nutrient inputs from sewage. These nutrients lead to algal blooms, eutrophication and hypoxia. As coastal populations grow, communities are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade sewage treatment plants. In Sweden they have demonstrated that shellfish farms can remove nutrients for about half the cost of sewage treatment plant upgrades. We need to make sure that our policy makers see shellfish aquaculture as part of a solution to our problems. Making this connection will be a huge benefit to our industry and to coastal water quality.
Bob Rheault, Executive Director
by Tom Kehoe, ECSGA President
To our members,
A busy summer growing season for all I am sure. Our most profitable Association event took place this month, “The Milford Oyster Festival” in Milford, CT, on August 15. The former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Tip O’Neill made famous the saying, “all politics is local”. We the ECSGA can not live in our insular cocoons and continue to ignore the local political scene in our Villages or Towns, regardless of where we live. The local political scene is and will continue to become more and more competitive with regards to access to public resources, like bay bottoms to grow shellfish. There are competing interests out there that do not want you to use a resource that they want access to. The sport fisherman, pleasure boaters, and various environmental groups all believe that they have something to say on this topic. Add in the local public debate that is swirling nationally with regards to water quality, storm water run off and non point source pollution and we must become involved in the public discussion. All of these issues are dynamic and evolving as we move toward local and national consensus as to how to keep our public waterways clean. Please speak up, attend some local Village or Town Board meetings. Learn what issues need your attention. Get involved.
Enjoy the remainder of the summer,
by Karen Rivara, ECSGA Secretary
On August 4th the Suffolk County Legislature voted 18-0 to pass an introductory resolution establishing the Suffolk County Aquaculture Lease Program in the Peconics and Gardiners Bays. This vote was historic for New York State’s shellfish aquaculture industry. To understand why this is so, it is necessary to have some understanding of the history of shellfish aquaculture in Long Island’s Peconic Estuary.
In 1884, the state gave Suffolk County the right to grant underwater land in the Peconics and Gardiner’s Bays for oyster cultivation. Seed from Connecticut was transplanted to New York waters for growout to market. This method of doing business was very successful until the middle of the last century. Pollution and oyster diseases along with other factors depleted the source of oyster seed in the Connecticut setting areas. By the 1980’s only one large company remained in the Peconics. Hard clam transplants from the West end of Long Island for depuration became the more prominent shellfish farming business. The Brown Tide of the mid-eighties was the death knell for what remained of the oyster industry in the Peconics. Coincidently, acrimony between wild harvest baymen and shellfish farmers, who were mostly large companies, increased. This hostility was augmented by declines in wild shellfish populations on public grounds and the exclusive right to mechanically harvest on private grounds. There was plenty of blame to go around on both sides. Declines in water quality also affected productivity on private grounds eventually making many of them unproductive.
The shellfish industry came to have two sides similar in tenor to the partisan politics we are experiencing today. On the aquaculture side, the only successful company was Frank M. Flowers and Sons in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Their success was based on the ability to cultivate both hard clams and oysters. They are now the only large company that has survived. In 1995, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Easthampton Shellfish Hatchery received a grant to train displaced commercial fisherman to become shellfish farmers and maintain a living working on the water. This program, which relied on the purchase of oyster seed from Flowers, changed the face of shellfish farming on Long Island. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) issued Temporary Marine Area Underwater Assignments of five acres which were renewed each year with the off-bottom culture permit needed to cultivate shellfish. The industry in New York changed from several large companies to a blend of small, medium and large scale growers cultivating oysters and hard clams or depurating hard clams. The wild harvesters who relied on hard clams only became more bitter and disenfranchised.
Things were peaceful in the Peconics until Aqua Culture Technologies emerged and managed to purchase 10,000 acres of underwater land from the trustee of the bankrupt Long Island Oyster Farms. Employing only mechanical harvest technology and knowledge of the location of a once in thirty year clam set in Gardiners Bay, this company harvested millions of dollars worth of clams. To say this angered local baymen is an understatement. The Northshore Baymen’s Association had been actively incapacitating any operation that chose to mechanically harvest hard clams whether legal or not. What they could not hamper through litigation they killed through legislation which legislators in Albany were glad to pass to preserve Long Islands’ social icon heroes immortalized by luminaries like Billy Joel. The baymen went after not only Aqua Culture Technologies, but also every other owner of underwater land in the Peconic Estuary. The use of a grant land to depurate hard clams from Raritan Bay in a program managed by the NYSDEC and small operations cultivating hard clam seed were now in jeopardy if Albany bought into the baymen’s argument that all grants should be nullified. Fortunately, the industry was able to organize. The East End Marine Farmers Association was formed. The goal was to change New York State law to clearly allow the cultivation of species other than oysters on grant lands and to allow for a program that would give the County of Suffolk the ability to lease underwater parcels at a reasonable cost. In 2004 the state passed the “aquaculture lease law.” Then the work began.
In 2005 the Suffolk County Department of Planning formed the Aquaculture Lease Program Advisory Committee (ALPAC) comprised of representatives from various county departments, a county legislator, representative from several New York State departments such as the DEC and Department of State, an environmental group, representatives from the five East end towns, academia, public aquaculture, extension, one bayman and one shellfish farmer. It was a big committee. Cashin Associates was hired by the county to assist in the development of the program. We had 20 meetings over four years and several public hearings. There was also a public portion for each meeting. This process saw much daylight.
The lease program that was adopted by the county is the product of this committee. The main component of the program is a map of the estuary with a nearly 30,000 acre “green zone” showing the area available for lease that would not unduly conflict with other stakeholder uses. The roughly 3,000 acres of “oyster grants” are also considered to be in the “green zone.” The program will allow current “assignments” to continue operating after converting to leases. If they are located in the “green zone” they can upgrade to a ten-acre lease with use of the bottom permitted. If they are not in the “green zone” they can continue in their current location as a five-acre lease with off-bottom cultivation only or they can move to a site in the “green zone” and convert to a ten-acre lease. New entrants will pick a ten-acre grid from the map on which to locate their lease. The county will lease up to 60 acres of new leases each year. There is a cap of 300 leased acres over five years when the program will be reviewed. The maximum lease acreage after ten years will be 600 acres. This represents a 1% increase in five years of the total acreage used for shellfish cultivation in this estuary.
The lease area and the cultivation methods that would be used in this zone and on “oyster grants” were required to go through an extensive environmental review that seemed to last forever. The East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, particularly Bob Rheault, was instrumental in educating the legislature regarding the environmental effects of all current cultivation methods for farmed shellfish. The fear of hydraulic harvesters “strip mining” the bay was allayed much to the chagrin of the aquaculture opponents who had hoped this would be a deal killer for the program. The determination of the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) was to proceed with a program that will allow current aquaculture activities including cultivating species other than oysters on active grants and current assignments to continue. It also provided for new farming opportunities on fallow grants, which can lease up to 20 acres on their grant for species other than oysters, and for new entrants in the industry to lease up to 10 acres.
Once the county legislature approved the FGEIS, the Suffolk County Planning Department began working with the ALPAC members on the initiation and administration of the program. The “Administrative Guidance” outlines the various types of lease, eligibility, requirements to maintain the lease and process for getting a lease. One and a half years later, the Suffolk County Planning Department and ALPAC had a document ready for the county legislature to adopt. The enabling state legislation that allowed the county to lease underwater land will sunset on December 31st, 2010. The county must issue at least one lease by then or the right will revert back to the State of New York. The adoption of the program by the county legislature on August 4th means that the county will most likely meet this deadline. The County Executive will need to hold a public hearing and sign the legislation. The program has been developed by his branch of government at great expense. It is unlikely that he will veto it.
New York has been staunchly protective of the wild harvester way of life and basically disinterested in the potential of shellfish aquaculture along its coast for the past thirty years. This program was given a “snowball’s chance in hell” to be initiated.
Why did we finally persevere?
- The industry organized
and was able to communicate not only our point-of-view, but also the
economic and environmental benefits of shellfish farming.
- Many of the baymen who
had opposed aquaculture are now farming shellfish. This is especially
true in the five East End towns where the program takes place.
What happened to the opposition?
- The wild harvesters in
the Peconics have worked side by side with aquaculture for many years.
Conflicts are usually resolved. They were not vocal opponents.
It seems like a lot of work for a relatively small program. However, it is the turning of the tide. For the first time thirty years New York growers, don’t have to worry about someone trying to put them out of business just because they cultivate hard clams on the bay bottom. That means we can go to work farming, not lobbying to farm.
by Mike Oesterling,
This year the ECSGA annual membership meeting will be held in conjunction with the Virginia Aquaculture Conference. These events are scheduled for November 13 and 14 (Friday and Saturday) 2009, in Williamsburg, Virginia. Combining these two events provides the opportunity to enhance the quality of presentations available to the regional shellfish growing industry, while offering an economical venue for the exchange of information and ideas important to growers. The ECSGA annual meeting is scheduled for November 13, 2009, beginning at 5:00 PM. This meeting precedes the Gala Aquaculture Reception, where Virginia aquaculture products are the stars of the evening.
The Virginia Aquaculture Conference is organized by academic advisors to the aquaculture industry, state agency representatives, and, most importantly, practicing aquaculturists. The educational sessions are designed to present current topics of interest to the wide range of aquaculture producers in the area. Complete information regarding registration, lodging, agenda, sponsors can be found at the Conference web site:
The Virginia Aquaculture Conference begins on November 13, at 1:00, with an afternoon devoted to marketing. The session entitled “Virginia Water Harvest - Water To Table Marketing” will provide information for anyone selling seafood. It begins with presentations from a regional supermarket chain seafood buyer and a local upscale restaurant chef discussing what criteria they have for purchasing and using seafood. Next is a panel presentation/discussion featuring a harvester’s perspective on marketing, a farmer’s market manager’s view of direct marketing, live marketing options, the opportunities available with community supported fisheries, and finally support services available to growers.
November 14th begins with a plenary session with information germane to both freshwater and saltwater growers. Michael Rubino, from the NOAA Aquaculture Program, will offer comments on aquaculture at the national level. John Hargreaves will address sustainability in aquaculture. A session on insurance for aquaculture will follow, presented by Leon Geyer, from Virginia Tech’s Agricultural and Applied Economics Department. The final topic of the morning will be a tag-team presentation of “Where We’re Going and What We’re Growing” conducted by Herman Ellison, Director of the Virginia Agricultural Statistics Service and Tom Murray Virginia Sea Grant Marine Extension Program leader.
There is an afternoon session on November 14 devoted entirely to shellfish culture topics which will be of interest to ECSGA members. The session begins with “Ocean Acidification and Shellfish, or Death By Dissolution” presented by Mark Green from St. Joseph’s College in Maine. Next topic will be “The Potential and Challenges of Water Quality Credits for Oyster Aquaculture” by Kurt Stephenson from Virginia Tech’s Agricultural and Applied Economics Department. Lewie Lawrence, director of regional planning for the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission will discuss “Managing Uses Conflict - Land Use Policy Considerations and Aquaculture.” ECSGA’s executive director, Robert “Skid” Rheault will discuss “East Coast Shellfish Culture - Status and Trends,” followed by Leslie Sturmer, University of Florida, Shellfish Aquaculture Extension Program, addressing “Florida Clam Culture - Methods, Status, Direction.” The final shellfish presentation will actually focus on an ECSGA project being coordinated by Gef Flimlin (Rutgers Cooperative Extension, NJ) and Sandy Macfarlane (Coastal Resource Specialist, Orleans, MA), “Regional BMP Development Efforts.”
Besides the educational aspects of the Conference and the opportunities to interact with growers from throughout the region, Williamsburg offers an assortment of activities for the whole family to enjoy and November is a great time of the year to visit. Come visit us in Virginia, where the slogan “Virginia is for Lovers” should be “Virginia is for SEAFOOD Lovers.” If you have any questions about the Virginia Aquaculture Conference, please contact Mike Oesterling, firstname.lastname@example.org, 804-684-7165.
Modified from Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, April 2009
by Kathy Rhodes, ECSGA Administrator
Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis), native to East Asia, are already established invaders in Europe and on the west coast of the United States. We don’t yet know whether the crab has established reproductive populations in the eastern U.S., however since 2005, there have been forty-four live Chinese mitten crabs confirmed in the region, from Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, the Hudson River, and New Jersey. Chinese mitten crabs may have negative ecological and economic impacts and are listed as “injurious wildlife” under the federal Lacey Act, which makes it illegal to import, export, or conduct interstate commerce of mitten crabs without a permit.
Most recently, mitten crabs have been captured in New Jersey and New York. This past April, the fifth mitten crab to be identified in New Jersey waters was found in a crab pot in the Shrewsbury River. Twenty-nine mitten crabs and hundreds of molted crab shells appeared along the Hudson River during 2008 and 2009. New York is the only east coast location to have both juvenile and adult mitten crabs. No live crabs have been confirmed in Chesapeake or Delaware Bay since 2007.
The Chinese mitten crab occurs in both freshwater and saltwater. Young crabs spend two to five years in freshwater tributaries and can extend many miles upstream of bays and estuaries. Mature male and female crabs migrate downstream to mate and spawn in saltwater estuaries. Chinese mitten crabs burrow into banks and levees along estuaries and are able to leave the water to walk around obstacles while migrating.
Please Report Any New Sightings.
To determine the status, abundance, and distribution of this species along the eastern U.S., a Mitten Crab Network has been established. The Network began as a partnership among several state, federal, and research organizations, with an initial focus on Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. We have now expanded the Network to include resource managers, commercial fishermen, research organizations, and citizens along the eastern U.S. Please help by reporting any mitten crabs directly to the Network or to your state resource manager.
• Commonly found in fresh water, but can occur in saltwater bays and estuaries
• Claws are equal in size with white tips and appear furry – with a thick mat of hair-like covering. (If you find a crab that is more than one inch wide and does not have hair on the claws, it is NOT likely to be a mitten crab. Juveniles under one inch may not have hair on the claws.)
• Carapace up to four inches wide; light brown to olive green in color
• No swimming legs. This crab has eight sharp-tipped walking legs
If you catch a mitten crab:
• Do not throw it back alive!
• Freeze the animal, keep it on ice, or preserve it in rubbing alcohol as a last resort
• Note the precise location and date where the animal was found
• Please take a close-up photo of the animal. Photos with your contact information can be emailed to: If you cannot take a photo, contact the Mitten Crab Hotline (443-482-2222)
REMEMBER THE LAW! Never transport a live mitten crab across state boundaries.
For additional information please visit http://www.serc.si.edu/labs/marine_invasions for updated reports, downloadable pamphlets, and tips on how to distinguish a mitten crab from other crabs.
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) including the
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
Comments by Walt Canzonier, Bivalve-sur-Maurice
It was refreshing to read an account of the healthy productivity of the Connecticut oyster culture industry. (E. H. Mahony 2/8/09 in The Hartford Courant.) It touched on a very important issue in the overall context of oyster culture, specifically, traditional, bottom-culture of oysters. As was pointed out in the article, the Connecticut production had declined from very impressive levels to essentially zero by the 1970s. True, things had changed in both the environment and in the operational matrix in which the producers were constrained to operate. However, the biological potential for oyster recruitment and growth, though somewhat impacted by a number of impediments (natural and anthropogenic,) was still available in the Sound and the estuaries along the Connecticut shore. This potential was recognised by a few watermen who had the foresight and a willingness to dedicate the time and money to initiate and pursue a long-term revitalisation of oyster culture. A key component that was integrated as a critical component in this revitalisation effort was the formulation and application of rational management practices. Based on a recognition of the need for effective management, applied to the utilisation of this natural potential, two brothers, Norman and Hillard Bloom, developed and persistently applied a production strategy that fostered the slow but steady resurgence of the oyster culture industry. Their objectives were not short-term. This archaic approach was quite unlike the fantasy driven initiatives of misguided individuals seeking a rapid ROI, a phenomenon that has been disturbingly typical of the technically impressive but unrealistic “projects” that have too often given aquaculture a bad name. True, the revitalisation initiative was aided to some degree by development of improved vessels and equipment, by ancillary input from the technical community (just in passing, the development of disease tolerant/resistant oyster strains is not a new concept, as seems to be implied by Dave Carey), and by unambiguous support of a pro-producer legislature that led to enlightened and revised policies of the State agencies. But, reflecting the critical element in the production philosophy perfected by his father and uncle, Norm Bloom Jr. points out that the real secret to success in pursuing the oldest type of aquaculture in North America is in the consistent application of good management of the resource. It is an excellent example of what can be done to effectively utilise a natural biological potential, even in the face of adverse conditions. I often delight in the opportunity to wave the Connecticut achievement in the face of some retrogressive members of the NJ industry and those bureaucrats who are afraid of permitting changes that might prove their antiquated policies to be truly counterproductive.
by Ed Rhodes, Aquatecnics
For the fourth consecutive year, ECSGA was a major player in the Milford (CT) Oyster Festival. The Milford Festival celebrated its 35th year and we expanded our menu from just raw shellfish to include fried oysters and clams and grilled oysters Rockefeller and Imperial.
Thanks to fourteen of our member companies, we were able to serve a wide variety of oysters and clams from our raw bars on Friday and Saturday. Overall, we sold more than 18,000 oysters and clams, and more than 1,000 portions of cooked shellfish, too.
The organizational aspects of the ECSGA participation fell once again to Ed and Kathy Rhodes who took care of all aspects of our 60-foot food booth that included spending nearly a week of their own time getting everything organized, getting more than 50 volunteers to spend time assisting both on Friday and Saturday and dealing with the health department and the Festival committees. Skid Rheault handled all of the details of getting 20,000 oysters and clams to Milford and Tom Kehoe again provided a refrigerated truck on-site that makes this whole thing possible. Other ECSGA members at the festival were Tom Rossi who spent eight hot hours grilling oysters, Gef Flimlin who did yeoman’s service as a greeter and expediter, Brian Bowes who cashiered and kept us honest, and Walt Blogoslawski, jack of all trades. All these folks are loudly thanked!
It is through ECSGA’s participation that the Milford Oyster Festival is again living up to its name. For a number of years the oyster was virtually absent from the Festival. We have restored it to its rightful place. More than 60,000 visitors can now enjoy eating oysters if they so choose and can cheer on some of the fastest shuckers in the world in the shucking contest. And a whole bunch of people now know that oysters, like wine, come in many different varieties and flavors.
Finally, we especially want to thank K & B Seafood, Frank M. Flowers & Sons, Norm Bloom & Son, Island Creek Oysters, Pangea Shellfish Co., Cowart Seafood Corp., Muscongus Bay Aquaculture, Matunuck Oyster Farm, Noank Aquaculture Coop., Salt Pond Oyster Co., Watch Hill Oysters, Cedar Island Oyster Co., and Rome Point Oysters for their contributions that made this event such an economic success for the ECSGA.
by Ed Rhodes, Aquatecnics
For the 4th consecutive year, the Milford Oyster Festival hosted a major oyster shucking competition that included the World Champion and the reigning U.S. women’s champion. Organized by ECSGA, this year’s competition featured 13 pro shuckers competing for $1750 in prize money that is donated by the Festival Committee.
For the second time in its four year history, William “Chopper” Young from Wellfleet, MA was our winner, taking just over 1 minute 40 seconds to shuck 24 oysters. Chopper is the two-time U.S. champion shucker, and now the reigning world champion after winning the title in Galway last September. Second place was declared a tie between Jimmy Brahimi from Hartford, CT and Luis Iglesias from the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Jimmy was our winner last year and runner up to Chopper in Saint Mary’s last fall. Third place went to Allison Paine from Wellfleet and Chopper’s better half. Allison had to find a babysitter for their son Eli in order to compete. We assume Eli will be in the contest soon!
Another notable competitor was Deborah Pratt from Virginia, the reigning U.S. women’s champion and a past national champion. We had Deborah front and center in our food booth raw bar and her effervescent personality really helped us draw in customers. A great time was also posted by Brad Hastings who represents the younger generation of Hastings from Pennsylvania and Baltimore (thanks Bob and George) and who all shuck from time-to-time at Nick’s Oyster Bar in Baltimore.
Rounding out the field were Anton Christen from the Union Oyster House in Boston, Felix Guzman and Elvin Guzman from Grand Central, Gordon Weldon from Philadelphia who operates “Gordon’s Oyster Catering,” Bob Relyea from Milford who shucks at Stonebridge Restaurant, Paul Bartlett from Baltimore who also shucks at Nick’s.
The competition allows us to attract some of the best talent in the world to Milford, and to spend the day in our food booth shucking and talking up oysters. We couldn’t get through 20,000 oysters in a day without them, and we applaud their participation and willingness to help out in so many ways that contributes to