The world of oys­ters

Fish Farmer - - Contents - BY JANET H BROWN

Not many con­fer­ences start with a per­for­mance from a talk­ing oys­ter, Sammy Spat, and a ‘fairy of the tidal flats’. If we were in any doubt be­fore­hand we knew for sure at this point that the sixth In­ter­na­tional Oys­ter Sym­po­siumICon­fer­ence was some­thing a lit­tle out of the or­di­nary.

This was the tenth an­niver­sary of the World Oys­ter So­ci­ety un­der whose aus­pices the con­fer­ence was or­gan­ised and the first time it had been held in North Amer­ica, the pre­vi­ous ones hav­ing been staged in Ja­pan, China, Tai­wan, Aus­tralia and Viet­nam.

The World Oys­ter So­ci­ety has as its stated vi­sion ‘to bring to­gether the oys­ter peo­ple of the world for the ben­e­fit of mankind’. Cape Cod pro­vided an ex­cel­lent set­ting in be­ing a most de­sir­able travel des­ti­na­tion but also lo­cated in the cen­tre of the thriv­ing oys­ter en­ter­prise area of New Eng­land.

The con­fer­ence opened at the pres­ti­gious Marine Bi­o­log­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory, Woods Hole, for the first day but the ma­jor part was based in a nearby re­sort ho­tel in West Fal­mouth.

A fur­ther nov­elty was that much of the con­fer­ence in­volved ex­pert pan­els cov­er­ing themes such as im­prov­ing the health of coastal wa­ters, ge­net­ics to­wards longevity and pro­duc­tiv­ity, cli­mate change, dis­ease and safety, prop­a­ga­tion and growout, and restora­tion and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment.

The aim was to pro­mote di­a­logue but this is dif­fi­cult in a large hall and some of the ex­pert pan­els were or­gan­ised as a se­ries of pre­sen­ta­tions. But there were some very in­ter­est­ing points raised any­way.

The pre­dom­i­nant theme was restora­tion, this be­ing an area where the US un­doubt­edly leads the world, with al­most all coastal states hav­ing restora­tion pro­grammes. What is new is the in­creas­ing em­pha­sis given to oys­ters as a means of re­duc­ing ni­tro­gen lev­els in wa­ter bod­ies.

Much of the im­me­di­ate coastal area is de­pen­dent on sep­tic tank sys­tems, and there was con­sid­er­able con­cern that oys­ters were be­ing seen as a saviour species that al­lowed lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to over­look the need to in­stall costly sewage treat­ment sys­tems.

Oys­ters are be­ing seen by many as a short cut to ni­tro­gen re­duc­tion when in re­al­ity the whole sys­tem is far more com­plex. What is equally of con­cern is the corol­lary that if oys­ters are as­so­ci­ated with wa­ter cleans­ing rather than ac­tual clean wa­ter, will that ad­versely af­fect the mar­ket for them?

The ma­jor dif­fer­ence in this con­fer­ence from oth­ers I have at­tended in US was the pres­ence of a big del­e­ga­tion from Ja­pan. This in­tro­duced a to­tally new area of in­ter­est in the form of health ben­e­fits ac­cru­ing from oys­ters.

Th­ese pre­sen­ta­tions mostly cen­tred around the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of a novel an­tiox­i­dant, E6, iso­lated from the soft tis­sues of the Ja­panese oys­ter Cras­sostrea gi­gas. This has been

“The pres­ence of a ma­jor del­e­ga­tion from Ja­pan in­tro­duced a new area of in­ter­est in the form of health ben­e­fits”

iden­ti­fied as 3 ,5,-di­hy­droxy-4-methoxy­ben­zyl al­co­hol and re­ported as hav­ing an­tiox­i­dant prop­er­ties far greater than ei­ther vi­ta­min C or vi­ta­min E.

This com­pound was also re­ported to be able to cross the blood brain bar­rier and to con­vey many ben­e­fits, from im­prov­ing sleep ual­ity to ben­e­fits in type 2 diabetes and pre­vent­ing oxy­gen re­lated brain disorders.

Much of this work em­anated from the Watan­abe oys­ter lab­o­ra­tory led by Pro­fes­sor Watan­abe. Since the sleep im­prove­ments re­ported were a de­crease in sleep dis­tur­bance from 8.5 per cent to 5.2 per cent, we may be wise to with­hold fur­ther com­ment.

It was in­ter­est­ing to learn that Amer­i­can chefs are in­creas­ingly high pro­file and the ap­par­ently well-known Bar­ton Seaver gave the open­ing ad­dress.

Chefs and food sell­ers in gen­eral have to be flu­ent in sus­tain­abil­ity’, he said, re­fer­ring to the book Blues’ by John Hersey (the hK e uiv­a­lent would per­haps be Kcean of Life’ by Cal­lum Roberts). This cat­a­logues the loss of fish­eries but he was ad­vo­cat­ing that sto­ries sell food, and shell­fish can be pre­sented as Her­itage Seafood - pro­vid­ing a link to the past and to the fu­ture (with its sus­tain­abil­ity).

The high­light of the con­fer­ence was the rand Kys­ter Tast­ing or­gan­ised by Bob Rheault, pres­i­dent of the East Coast Shell­fish row­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. Eight chefs pre­pared oys­ters while teams of valiant shuck­ers pro­vided co­pi­ous uan­ti­ties of ex­cel­lent lo­cally grown Cras­sostrea vir­ginica and some Ku­mamoto oys­ters as well, served au na­turel.

The dishes ranged from oys­ters served with a smoked corn and co­conut curry foam, with pick­led leeks topped with turmeric and baby cilantro, to dev­illed eggs with fried oys­ters (the recipe is ap­par­ently eas­ily ob­tain­able on­line ).

The trade show pro­vided a great fo­cus for shell­fish grow­ers. World Kys­ter So­ci­ety pres­i­dent Dr Kat­suyoshi Mori an­nounced at the end that the next meet­ing will be held in 2017 in Ban­gor, North Wales.


Clock­wise from top right: Eat­ing oys­ters con­sti­tuted a ma­jor part of the con­fer­ence small scale hatch­ery on Martha’s Vine­yard Dr Mori, founder of the World Kys­ter So­ci­ety, with his wife They also serve who only stand and shuck oys­ters.... ...

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