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Community Shellfish Restoration and Research Featured at Conference

Jan 19, 2017 | News

The closing of the May River oyster beds for the first time due to pollution concerns in 2009 stunned the community of Bluffton, South Carolina, and started a movement similar to several discussed at the 18th International Conference on Shellfish Restoration (ICSR’16).

“Oysters are our bald eagle,” said Kim Jones, the town’s Watershed Management Division manager. “This is our rallying cry. When those beds closed, there was darn near a riot. Our community cares about this river.”

The closure prompted community leaders to come together and create the May River Watershed Action Plan. Following the recommendations in that document, the community has begun to cut down on polluted runoff. Yet the oyster beds have been opened and closed several times in recent years, emphasizing how much work still needs to be done.

Community efforts to restore shellfish beds were one focus of ICSR’16, held November 16-19, 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina. About 130 attendees heard presentations from researchers, shellfish growers, and community groups from 20 states and nine countries.

Researchers also discussed the impact of the El Niño weather pattern on growing conditions; the best methods for seeding shellfish beds in various parts of the world; and the success of using concrete oyster castles, reef balls, and repurposed crab traps as reef substrate.

The international aspect of the conference was emphasized as opening day keynote speaker Tristan Hugh-Jones of Atlantic Shellfish Ltd. explained the challenges of breeding oysters in ponds in Ireland. New Zealand researcher Tom McCowan switched gears from his original presentation to discuss the impact of a recent earthquake that raised abalone beds above sea level. Tom Ysebaert of Wageningen University and Research spoke about the diversity of shellfish beds in The Netherlands.