Tag: oysters

Red Algal Bloom

Pearly Whirly Pearl Fact: Never Eat Oysters During These Months

Have you ever heard that you should only eat oysters in months with names that include the letter “R”? Turns out, there’s truth to the tale!

So why should you avoid eating local oysters in the months of May, June, July, and August?

Oysters are filter feeders that eat algae and plankton and are susceptible to a very specific type of algal bloom, or “Red Tide” that can occur during warmer months of the year. A buildup of toxins in the oyster’s tissue as a result of this algae can be harmful to humans.

So what’s an oyster lover to do?

The answer is actually quite simple. While this old rule is a word to the wise for those of us who like to gather our own oysters to eat from rivers and oceans, it doesn’t usually apply to commercially available oysters, which are strictly regulated by the U.S. government. You can rest assured that your favorite oyster joint is probably serving oysters that are algae free and delicious. Slurp!

UCF Helps Restore Oyster Reefs

UCF Knights Give Back

The University of Central Florida’s volunteer program, Knights Give Back, recently completed their Eighth Annual Day of Service! The program has grown extensively over the years, as more and more UCF students, alumni, teachers, and other volunteers have started lining up for their chance to give back. This year, thousands of volunteers working at more than 20 different volunteer sites across central Florida worked on a variety of projects helping the community and the environment.

Infographic on Knights Give Back throughout the years

We at Pearls International are especially interested in this event because this year, one volunteer activity aims to help our favorite little ocean organisms – that’s right, oysters!

On October 11th, 2014, a multitude of students, teachers, and alumni, led by Dr. Linda Walters of the UCF biology department spent their day helping to restore degraded shorelines and oyster reefs in the Indian River Lagoon. Volunteers planted and transplanted mangroves and marsh grass, and created oyster restoration mats. These mats were placed in areas where oyster reefs used to exist, helping to restore the population. Oysters are a keystone, or essential, species and are filter-feeders, which means they actually clean the water as they eat, helping to create a healthy ecosystem in the lagoon.

UCF Students creating oyster mats.
UCF Students creating oyster mats to help restore the oyster population.

Top Ten Most Wanted, Continued (#2)

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

As this series nears its end, we would like to talk about a huge offender to not just oysters and other mollusks, but everything that lives in the ocean. Not all threats are other animals, or even living organisms at all. Some of the most deadly predators are unseen.

Ocean Acidification Most Wanted Poster

2) Ocean Acidification
Ocean Acidification is a huge concern in the sustainability in our oceans in the not-so-distant future. Our oceans naturally absorb carbon dioxide, and their capacity to contain CO2 is not endless, as once was thought. The more carbon emissions we create (from excessive burning of fossil fuels), the more acidic our oceans are becoming. These increasingly acidic waters have a huge effect on our ecosystems, beginning in areas where water is shallow and slowly spreading outward. Oysters and other mollusks have trouble getting the energy to build up their shells, and many spats expend all their energy and die before given the chance. On the other hand, oyster predators such as crabs have adapted to grow thicker shells to defend against the acidic waters. Starfish have been documented to consume 20% more oysters when the oysters are submitted to acidic waters (as the animals will have thinner, weaker shells and be much smaller than healthy oysters.) With food supply for these predators getting shorter, the food chain in the ecosystems they reside in is becoming more and more off balance.

Top Ten Most Wanted, Continued (#3 and Counting)

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

If you enjoyed last week’s blog, you may think you cannot be shocked any further by oyster predators.  Well – fasten your seat belts, because what you are about to read is even more shocking.

Starfish Most Wanted Poster

 

3) Starfish
Starfish are the largest natural predator of oysters and mollusks. A starfish population within an oyster bed can quickly consume 90% of young oysters soon after they have attached to the bed.

The Starfish’s methods are uncanny and frightening in an alien-kind of way.  Here’s how they operate:  A starfish uses its tiny tube-feet which cover his underside to grab ahold of the oyster. He holds the oyster near his mouth opening at the center of the star on his underside, then pries the shell open.  He inserts his stomach into the oyster – you heard that right – “into” the oyster – then releases digestive enzymes into the oyster to help break down its flesh.  Shocking, but true.

Some species of starfish swallow their prey whole instead, and break down everything from within.  Either way, we believe this particular oyster menace should be given Number Three (#3) on our Ten Most Wanted List.

Stay tuned for more unbelievable oyster threats, leading up to the Number One (#1) enemy of our beloved oysters.

Top Ten Most Wanted, Continued (#4 and Counting)

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

This week’s seemingly harmless offender has a very interesting method of preying on oysters and other mollusks.

Sea Snail Most Wanted Poster

4) Sea Snails
Snails such as the “Atlantic Oyster Drill,” “Common Whelk,”and “Moon Snail” are some of the most creative predators of the oyster and other mollusks. Don’t let their harmless reputation fool you, these killers are dreaded by oysters and oyster farmers alike. Their drill-like tongues, called “radula” are studded with sharp teeth. They bore into the shell of the oyster, releasing acidic enzymes that help soften the shell as they drill. Once the drilling is complete, they extract and eat the meat inside of the shell. If you have ever seen a piece of shell or mother-of-pearl with small holes in the surface, it is likely that they were caused by one of these assailants.

Who knew those cute little snails were so deadly?  For sheer originality, the “Atlantic Oyster Drill” and the rest of its Sea Snail Gang earn the Number Four (#4) spot on our Ten Most Wanted List.

Stay tuned for more unbelievable oyster threats, leading up to the Number One (#1) enemy of our beloved oysters.

Top Ten Most Wanted, Continued (#5 and Counting)

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

Today’s installment brings us to the next oyster criminal – meet the Flatworm.

Flatworm Most Wanted Poster

5) Flatworms
These are tiny offenders, growing only to a length of about one inch. They are hard to see because of their size and usually near transparent color, and that’s a good thing, because once you get a good look at them they are truly gross.  Flatworms have an appetite for the meat of the oyster and gain access by slipping their small, translucent bodies in between the oyster’s two shells, proceeding to feast on the live oyster from the inside!

Interestingly enough, intruders similar to the flatworm are more likely to cause an oyster to produce a pearl than the legendary “grain of sand.”  The oyster tries to prevent the worm from eating him by coating him with consecutive layers of an egg-white substance called “nacre” that crystalizes on the worm.  This puts a stop to the discomfort and forms a tiny pearl, however, only one in 15,000 of these type of natural pearls are high enough quality to go on the market.

Flatworms try to eat the oyster and themselves become a pearl – we like that reversal, however the audacity of trying to eat someone from the inside earns this breed a Number Five (#5) on our Ten Most Wanted List.

We hope you have enjoyed the information so far!  Stay tuned for more unbelievable oyster threats, leading up to the Number One (#1) enemy of our beloved oysters.  You wouldn’t believe what some oysters go through to deliver their beautiful pearls!

Top Ten Most Wanted, Continued (#6 and Counting)

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

Many of the predators we’ve talked about in this series so far have been known to effect oyster farms and wild oysters much more severely than they do oysters in the protective facilities of pearl farms. This weeks offender is one that even pearl farmers can’t escape, and struggle to protect their stock from.

Barnacles Most Wanted Poster

6) Epibionts
Any organism that lives on the surface of any other living organism, including but not limited to barnacles, is an epibiont. Barnacles, while they appear harmless (and are harmless to many organisms) can damage oyster populations. Excessive barnacle growth on the shell of an oyster can prohibit that oyster from growing and developing properly. If the barnacles grow where the oyster’s shell opens, it can prevent the oyster from opening it’s shell to feed and breathe. Barnacle growth can also cause permanent damage to the shell, causing it to grow lopsided. This is especially detrimental in the pearling business, because a healthy oyster that grows at a consistent rate is key in producing pearls of the best quality.

Since barnacles can attach to anything, including ships, piers and rocks, we wish they would be more considerate about attaching to oysters.  Therefore, Number Six (#6) on our Ten Most Wanted List goes to the Epibionts.

Stay tuned for more unbelievable oyster threats, leading up to the Number One (#1) enemy of our beloved oysters.

Top Ten Most Wanted, Continued (#8 and Counting)

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

Another week, another Most Wanted! This week’s offender does not usually harm the oysters directly, but causes damage to the oysters’ environment. These crustaceans are huge threats to oyster farmers, particularly those in the food industry.

Shrimp Most Wanted Poster

 

8) Ghost Shrimp and Mud Shrimp
These varieties of burrowing shrimp are harmful to the ecosystems in which healthy oysters thrive. They create tunnel systems in the sand or mud, disturbing the sediment so consistently that it creates an unhealthy environment.  These shrimp actually decrease the level of water in the shallow oyster beds by displacing the water with stirred up sediment. This lifts and exposes oysters closer to the shore to drying wind over time, killing the exposed oysters.

Ghost and Mud Shrimp can actually smother oysters with the amount of sediment that they stir up and also cause a decrease in organic matter in the soil.  We don’t hold it against them that they are “ghostly” and “muddy,” but because of their lack of respect for oysters, we give them a Number Eight (#8) on our Ten Most Wanted List.

Stay tuned for more unbelievable oyster threats, leading up to the Number One (#1) enemy of our beloved oysters.

Top Ten Most Wanted, Continued (#9 and Counting)

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

If you read our last blog, you know we have comprised a Most Wanted list for Oyster Offenders. We’re advocates of the life and safety of these little pearl-forming, ocean-cleaning parts of our aquatic ecosystems, and we are here to educate! Follow this series for neat facts about predators that live in our oceans, and more.

Cownose Ray Most Wanted Poster

9) Cownose Rays
Similar to the oyster toadfish, the cownose ray has special teeth for crushing mollusks. While feeding, they crush segments of oyster beds three feet wide and up to a foot deep! They also stir up the sediment around the oyster beds while they swim, which can bury the oysters. As oyster beds provide homes to a whole host of aquatic organisms, these rays set off a chain reaction of damages.  We’re all for the food chain, but we don’t want these around our special pearl oysters, so we give the Cownose Ray a Number Nine (#9) on the Ten Most Wanted List.

Stay tuned for more unbelievable oyster threats, leading up to the Number One (#1) enemy of our beloved oysters.  You won’t believe what some oysters go through to deliver their beautiful pearls!

Pearls International’s Top 10 Most Wanted List (#10 and Counting Down!)

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

Oyster Toadfish Most Wanted Poster

We at Pearls International were wondering why it is so difficult to raise oysters – don’t you just put them in clean water and sit around in the sun for a couple years until the pearls are formed?  What is all the fuss about oyster disease and predators?  So, we decided to do a series on oyster threats!  What we found was amazing!

Pearls International will release facts about our Top Ten Oyster Threats, one per week, beginning with the least dangerous and leading up to the Number One (#1) most deadly threat to oysters and our beautiful pearls!  Wait till you see some of these critters!

In case you haven’t noticed, we are pretty crazy about pearls around here. That means we also have a lot of respect for the amazing little animals that make them. This includes several species of oyster, clams, and other mollusks. Of course, not all mollusks can produce a nacreous pearl like you see in the jewelry we sell, but we think they’re all equally important.

Oysters are a “keystone” species, meaning they are very important to the habitats they live in. Oyster beds provide shelter for a variety of marine life such as fry fish seeking shelter, and discarded shells serve as a substrate to facilitate the growth of sea sponges, whip corals, and sea fans. These organisms provide shelter to an even larger variety of marine life.

Oysters are also a food source for many animals, including humans.

They are very beneficial to the environment because of the way they feed: Oysters are filter-feeders. They pull food in through their gills along with gallons of water. Oyster beds essentially act as massive filtration systems, helping to keep the ecosystems they live in clean.

Without further ado, we present…Pearls International’s Top 10 Most Wanted List!

 

Number 10 (#10):   Oyster Toadfish
Meet our first offender, the Oyster Toadfish, above. These ugly looking mugs are known for hiding around oyster beds, staying out of sight until they make their attack. They have rows of sharp teeth designed to be able to crack into the hard shells of mollusks and crustaceans.  Despite their common name, “Oyster Toadfish,” they seem to prefer to prey on crabs, rather than oysters, so we rank them Number 10 on our list.

Stay tuned for more unbelievable oyster threats, leading up to the Number One (#1) enemy of our beloved oysters.  You won’t believe what some oysters go through to deliver their beautiful pearls!