Working with SeaWeb Europe, the Ocean Conservancy (OC) sponsored and organized a U.S. delegation to France. The purpose of the trip was to create a dialogue between the U.S.
and French oyster industries about the role that climate change may be playing in recent mass oyster mortalities on both sides of the Atlantic. I was lucky enough to be included in the American delegation along with: Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish (WA State); Sebastian Belle, of the Maine Aquaculture Association; Ryan Ono, of the Ocean Conservancy (Washington DC) and, George Waldbusser, of Oregon State University, a prominent researcher who studies the effects of ocean acidification on marine bivalves.
The featured event was the 31st National Salon of Shellfish Farming and Marine Culture, held in Vannes, Brittany. We each presented talks (with the help of a translator!) describing the U.S. oyster industry and our experience with mortalities and production problems associated with acidification of coastal marine waters. We also were able to meet and talk with oyster farmers and trade organization representatives during the two-day exhibition.
I arrived in Vannes a day early and visited an oyster farm in nearby Saint Philibert, owned and operated by Jeff Quintin. His farm, La Perle de Quehan, produces about 100 metric tons per year, selling to area restaurants, wholesalers, and through their beautiful retail market and restaurant. We talked shop for several hours, including a leisurely French lunch at an open-air restaurant. After the show ended, our French hosts organized a tour of two farms (one considerably larger than Jeff’s and one that was smaller) and a hatchery in the area surrounding Vannes.
The trip was successful on multiple levels. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and learning from the other Americans as well as the French oyster growers and industry representatives we met. I think we were successful in raising awareness about the ways that climate change can affect oyster health and their ability to cope with additional stressors. Our French hosts were most welcoming and gracious and I sincerely hope that we have the opportunity to reciprocate in the near future! Finally, the food and wine were fantastique!!