Cape Organization Brings International Oyster Symposium To Falmouth
By: SAM HOUGHTON, August 22, 2014
The Sixth International Oyster Symposium, which has been held throughout Asia and Australia for the bi-yearly symposiums since 2005, will make its first appearance in the United States at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel next year.
Kahren Dowcett of Yarmouthport, founder of the Living Arts Institute, has led the effort to bring the event here. She said that the initiative, as well as the World Oyster Society that founded the symposium, is to spread awareness about the plight of oyster reefs and what restored reefs and oyster populations could do to heal an unhealthy ocean.
Scientists and officials at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marine Biological Laboratory, Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve as well as World Oyster Society in Japan and other international organizations have helped to bring the symposium to Cape Cod.
Ms. Dowcett said there have been reports that 80 to 90 percent of the oyster reef population in the world have been destroyed, yet most efforts focus on saving coral reefs. The symposium is an effort to bring scientists together to restore these oyster reefs and to restore the health of the ocean.
The first day of the symposium will be geared toward the general public and will be held at MBL. Ms. Dowcett and staff of the Living Arts Institute will perform an educational and comedic play about the life of an oyster afterward at the Cotuit Center for the Arts.
The following days of the symposium will feature workshops, discussions, and networking opportunities for oyster scientists around the world.
Danielle D. Barber, the regional sales manager for Scout Hotels which manages the Sea Crest, said organizers of the symposium have booked the hotel for the week. It is the first international symposium the hotel has hosted. The hotel will host the exhibition space in anticipation for the sale of oyster research equipment.
The hotel will also host an oyster tasting on October 24 of this year. Funds from this year’s event, Ms. Barber said, will go toward a bigger tasting next year. She said that 15 to 30 chefs, mostly from the New England area, will offer 400 oyster dishes each to the public. The tasting will mark the end of the inaugural Cape Cod-wide Oyster Week sponsored by Ms. Dowcett and the Living Arts Institute.
Barton Seaver, an executive chef and a National Geographic fellow, will be a featured chef and speaker at the tasting.
The World Oyster Society was established in July of 2005 at the first symposium held in Tokyo, Japan. Katsuyoshi Mori has been the president of the society since. Dr. Mori of Japan is a professor emeritus at Tohoku University in aquaculture who, Ms. Dowcett said, is a highly respected scientist in the international community.
Other past symposia have been held in China, Taiwan, Tasmania, and Vietnam. Themes at the symposia have covered such topics as the sustainability of oyster culture and its effect on human health.
Ms. Dowcett said that she expects hundreds from just North America to come to the event. There is interest from scientists in New York and along the New Jersey coast because of their concerns of climate change and the mitigation oyster reefs could play. She said she has received inquiries already from Asian scientists, especially in Vietnam where oysters are a large part of their culture.
Scott R. Lindell of MBL as well as Falmouth’s Water Quality Management Committee member Ronald D. Zweig have helped organize the event.
Woods Hole and Falmouth scientific institutions are one reason the symposium will be held in North Falmouth, but another reason is the region’s history with oyster aquaculture, Ms. Dowcett said.
Ms. Dowcett in 2005 started the Living Arts Institute, a nonprofit organization with a mission to “catalyze” the community with events and other programs. In the summer of 2012, the group started the Oyster Initiative in order to bring awareness to the oyster plight and its effects on some cultures and the ocean.
They performed “Cirque de Sea: An Oyster Tale Extraordinaire,” a play based on the life cycle of the oyster, as a launch to the initiative.
Dr. Mori came from Japan to the opening upon invitation from the arts institute.
Eventually, Ms. Dowcett and Dr. Mori talked about their initiatives. Following the performance, they approached Massachusetts senators with the idea of bringing the symposium to Cape Cod.
From there, she was invited onto the board of the World Oyster Society. She also worked with State Senator Daniel A. Wolf (D-Harwich) and spoke with other stake holders about the possibility of hosting the symposium. She traveled to Asia multiple times and worked with original board members of the society. She made a pitch as to why to bring the event to the US and the board voted unanimously to do so.
In December, at the fifth annual symposium held in Vietnam, Dr. Mori announced that Cape Cod would be the next location.