Not Just A Shellfish: Oysters’ Benefits Celebrated At Symposium

Barton Seaver speaks on "Nourishing Ourselves and Saving Our Future" at the Annual Oyster Symposium in Woods Hole.

Barton Seaver speaks on “Nourishing Ourselves and Saving Our Future” at the Oyster Symposium in Woods Hole.

WOODS HOLE – Oysters have an incredible story. They are a link to our past, and with their ability to restore waterways, they are a key to our future.

That was the message from Barton Seaver, the keynote speaker at the World Oyster Society’s Sixth International Oyster Symposium, which kicked off in Woods Hole yesterday.

Seaver is director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health.

His talk at the Marine Biological Laboratory’s Lillie Auditorium focused on the oyster as a, as he put it, “heritage seafood” that “keeps working waterfronts working, keeps next generations in the community on the water, puts healthy food on our tables, restores the health of ecosystems, gives us a taste of place, gives us a taste of history and keeps us near and dear to our own heritage.”

Speaking to those in the oyster business in attendance, he said, “You all are rock stars. That’s amazing what you do. I hope you can see yourselves as noble as you are.”

Seaver said that given the oyster’s benefits to world in the areas of health, sustainability and the environment, the oyster transcends its role as a mere food.

“It’s not just enough to sell an oyster. I think we really need to sell the idea that it’s for all of us, our patriotic duty, to support what is truly a civic enterprise and eat as many farm-raised oysters as we possible can,” Seaver said to great applause.

In talking about the oyster’s many benefits, Seaver talked about the industry itself.

“The new sustainability is not just about biology, though that is certainly an element. It’s about biography. It’s about jobs, working waterfronts, local and place-based foods. It’s about economic multipliers, the number of people you employ, the ice, the trucks, everything associated with your business on land. It’s about our health. It’s about our connection to the producer. And it has the wonderful aspect that oysters are the original traceable seafood. That story comes inherent with every shell by law. It’s right there on the tag. . . . Oysters have a huge advantage,” he said.

The symposium is put on by the World Oyster Society, which was started in Japan in 2005 with a vision, as the society’s founder and president Dr. Katsuyoshi Mori put it, “to bring together the oyster people of the world for the benefit of mankind.”

Mori is president of the Oyster Research Laboratory in Sendai in Japan and professor emeritus at Tohoku University in Japan.

After listening to Seaver’s talk, Mori said he was pleased to have the conference on Cape Cod.

“I couldn’t be happier. I hope this symposium is successful for our society’s future. I believe our society will grow from here,” he said.

Mori said he has visited Woods Hole four times since 1975 and has high hopes for the conference as a place to develop concepts that can have a worldwide influence. “I certainly hope this symposium is a good chance for our society to save humankind because our global population is increasing. How can we provide enough food to humans? This is a problem. So for our society our charge is how we can save our earth by using oysters,” he said.

The World Oyster Society has 835 members from 14 countries who are scientists, producers, entrepreneurs and consumers. Past symposia were held in Japan, China, Taiwan, Australia and Vietnam. This year’s conference on Cape Cod is the first to be held in the east.

Among the local officials attending and participating in the conference is Ron Zweig, the facilitator of a panel called “Oysters for H2O — What’s Not To Like?”

Zweig, who is on the Falmouth Water Quality Management Committee and the board of the Coonamessett Farm Foundation, said, “I think there is broad experience in the type of work we’re doing in Falmouth. I’m hoping to glean some pearls from that−from the oyster viewpoint−and incorporate them into the program here.”

Zweig is also a participant in the symposium’s panel “Improving the Health of Coastal Waters,” along with, among other locals, UMass Dartmouth’s Brian Howes, who has been heading up the Massachusetts Estuaries Project; Mashpee Shellfish Warden Richard York and Chuck Green of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Natural Resources Department.

Also at the symposium is Sia Karplus, who is a technical consultant to Falmouth’s Water Quality Management Committee. “There is so much information about what is happening nationally and internationally that I’m hoping to find out more about how we measure nitrogen removal and especially denitrification. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the data and analysis so we can quantify some of the great things we know oysters do,” she said.

This is the third year of Falmouth’s oyster project growing two million oysters and looking at installing a reef formation in order to help clean up excess nitrogen in Little Pond in Teaticket.

After watching just the opening presentation of the conference by Seaver, Karplus said the symposium has brought home to her the major benefits of oysters for the local project: “That this is so worth doing. That using oysters for watershed protection and restoration and not just staying neutral but, as Barton was saying, to actually restore these systems, oysters are a major player.”

The symposium continues today with sessions on trends in marketing oysters, regulatory boundaries and breakthroughs, and a workshop on an oyster restoration project led by Emily Vogler of Rhode Island School of Design.

Tonight is the Second Annual Oyster Grand Tasting, which takes place in the Ocean View Ballroom at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in North Falmouth. The ticketed event will feature 12 master chefs from the United States and Japan offering cooked oyster dishes alongside 12 raw bars. Oysters from local waters and beyond will be featured. The Fred Clayton Quartet will perform.

Tomorrow’s sessions begin with “Oysters To The Rescue,” by keynote speaker Margaret Davidstone.

The lunchtime talk “Tsunami Oyster Recovery with Dream Oysters,” explores the fate of oyster aquaculture after the 2011 tsunami.

The symposium ends Friday night with the Bivalve Bake, a traditional Cape Cod dinner of lobster, clams, mussels, corn on the cob, and cole slaw.


Speak Your Mind

737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy