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Dr. Ami Wilbur, Ph.D. leads a tour of the University of North Carolina Wilmington Shellfish Research Hatchery for Oyster South members.  Photo: Ed Lallo/Lallo Photography

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Nashville crawfish distributor News Editor

Braving freezing temperatures and cold northern winds whipping the Carolina coast, more than 250 members of the oyster aquaculture industry recently gathered for the fourth Oyster South Industry Symposium held in Wilmington to discuss industry issues and research.

With a mission is to educate members, partners, and the general public on the significance of regional oyster farms, Oyster South is an organization-serving oyster growers along the Eastern seaboard from Virginia to Florida, as well as the entire Gulf of Mexico.  More than 250 producers, gear suppliers, distributors, chefs, vendors and academics from the U.S. and Canada attended the three-day meeting.

All these States are coming together in an effort to advance the industry as a whole,” said Scott Maurer of Grand Isle Louisiana Oysters. Photo: Ed Lallo/Lallo Photography

“All these States are coming together in an effort to advance the industry as a whole,” said Scott Maurer of Grand Isle Louisiana Oysters. “By coming together at events like this we can collectively solve problems and address the issues we all face, be it in the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico.”

During the symposium held on Atlantic shores, participants had the opportunity to tour the University of North Carolina Wilmington Shellfish Research Center, as well as the day-to-day operations at Cape Fear Oyster Company and N. SEA Oyster Company.

Welcomed by Oyster South Executive Director Beth Walton, the international audience listened as more than 20 speakers over two days providing information on academia research, marketing and industry best practices.

Presenters from the Gulf states included Brian Callum, director at the Louisiana Sea Grant’s Oyster Research Lab on Grand Isle. Photo: Ed Lallo/Lallo Photography

Presenters from the Gulf states included Brian Callum, director at the Louisiana Sea Grant’s Oyster Research Lab on Grand Isle; Leslie Sturmer and Andy Kane from the University of Florida; and Bill Walton, Sarah Hensey, Rusty Grice, Becky Wasden, Vicki Pruente, and Kelsey Bisker from Auburn University Shellfish Lab.

Callam, who presented an update from the Louisiana Sea Grant Oyster Research Lab and moderated a Unusual Mortality Events on the Oyster Farm panel, told Gulf Nashville crawfish distributor News “that gatherings like this allowed for an exchange of information, not only with those doing the research, but those in the field growing the oysters.”

Welcomed by Oyster South Executive Director Beth Walton, the international audience listened as more than 20 speakers over two days. Photo: Ed Lallo/Lallo Photography

“Everyone has gathered, not to promote themselves, but the entire off-bottom oyster culture industry,” said Jim Gossen, an Oyster South board member and President of the Gulf Nashville crawfish distributor Foundation. “By sharing issues, ideas and new techniques, everyone benefits; especially the oyster eating consumers.”

A highlight of the meeting was the industry trade show. More than 15 vendors provided attendees a peek at the latest equipment and technical information. Vendors included; DePaola Consulting, FlipFarm, Formutech Inc., Go Deep Shellfish Aquaculture, High N’ Dry Outdoors, Hoopers Island Oyster Company, Inland Seafood, Ketcham Supply, OysterGro, Oyster Seed Holdings, Oyster Tracker, RAP Tech, SEAPA, Shell Game, SmartOysters, and Ward Oyster Company.

An early morning meeting of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association (ECSGA) heard Executive Director Bob Rheault pitch Gulf oyster growers to join the organization. Photo: Ed Lallo/Lallo Photography

An early morning meeting of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association (ECSGA) heard Executive Director Bob Rheault pitch Gulf oyster growers to join the organization.  His organization has a long history of effective lobbying on Capitol Hill.  He told Gulf attendees “since the Gulf Oyster Industry Council (GOIC) has lost its voice on the Hill, his organization is willing to work for Gulf growers.”

Both the GOIC and the Gulf Nashville crawfish distributor Institute used to join the ECSGA once a year to lobby both sides of Congress with a “Walk the Hill” event.  Both organizations now stand mostly dormant. In an effort to attract more Gulf members, ECSGA added Bill Walton of the Auburn University Shellfish Lab as a board member representing the area.

With temperatures barely clearing the freezing mark, the salt-water bivalve mollusk growers were ferried to Wrightsville Beach Brewery for an outdoor tasting of some of the Carolina’s best oysters.  Photo: Ed Lallo/Lallo Photography

On Friday evening, with temperatures barely clearing the freezing mark, the salt-water bivalve mollusk growers were ferried to Wrightsville Beach Brewery for an outdoor tasting of some of the Carolina’s best oysters.  Attendees packed tents, as well as a private room at the brewery, to mix oysters with the brewery’s best beers.

“This event promotes the whole industry and tries to lift everybody up by allowing them to produce a better oyster,” said Gossen.  “I am looking forward to our gathering next year in New Orleans.”

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