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Delaware Oysters

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Delaware Oysters
An Argumentative Research Paper
Earl Lofland
Delaware Technical & Community College

Authors Note:
This paper was prepared for English Composition and Research ENG102-406, taught by Corinne
Rhein.

Delaware Oysters

Thesis:
Delaware should do more to revitalize the maritime and commercial fishing industry by
establishing a vocational school and aquatic landscaping
Body.
I.

There have been negative impacts to the Delaware fishing industry and
ecologically to the Delaware Bay caused by the decline in oyster populations
of the Delaware Bay.
A. Dating as far back as the 17th century, the Delaware Bay was abundant with
oysters.
1. Descriptions of the oyster beds have been found in writings by Tomas
Campanius Holm dating back to 1642.
2. Due to over-harvesting and a protozoan parasite discovered in 1957, a
decline in the numbers of healthy oysters was discovered.

II.

High levels of carcinogens found in the Delaware Estuary have had severe
negative impacts on the health of the estuary, causing Delawares Division of
Fish and Wildlife (Department of Natural Resources and Environmental
Control, (DNREC)) to issue consumption warnings of aquatic animals, such,
finfish (flounder, perch, trout, etc.), that live on the surface (epifaunal
organisms), and aquatic animals, such as clams, that live beneath the surface

III.

(infaunal organisms) native to the estuary.


There have been positive results improving both the economy and ecology in
other estuaries.

Delaware Oysters

A. By increasing oyster populations, while managing the oyster industry through


legislation and harvest techniques in other estuaries, the oyster industry and the ecology
have simultaneously benefited.
1. New York recognized the state could solve two problems through one very
logical strategy.
2. In 2010 the New York Times published an article about the Urban Assembly
New York Harbor Schools endeavors to change a pattern of high drop-out
rates, while working to revitalize the oyster population that also reduces
pollution in the estuary, while also working on a long term strategy to revive
the fishing industry of NY.
3.

Mr. Malinowski, is a second generation oysterman and an aquaculture


teacher at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, working with the
students from the harbor school to save the New York Harbor through oyster
gardening, (Kamp. 2010).

4. Eighty-five percent of the students at the school are from families living
below the poverty level and statistically most likely to drop out before
graduating high school.
5. Janique Moore, 18 at the time, is evidence the school curriculum is a success.
6.

Murray Fisher, 35, is the program director at the New York Harbor School.
The harbor school became his brainstorm, creating a curriculum thats
restoration-based and makes kids feel that theyre valuable contributing
members of society. (Kamp, 2010).

Delaware Oysters

7. Oysters are the central curriculum, not just for the historical economic
reasons, but ecologically as well.
B. Doing the same strategy along the shoreline of the Delaware Bay in Delaware would
produce the same outcome.
1. Much like the Hudson River estuary, the Delaware had over one hundred
square miles of thriving oyster beds.
2. Oysters of the western coastline of the Delaware Bay and their natural
habitats should belong to all the people of Delaware, just as The
Chesapeake and their natural habitats belong to all of the people of
Virginia, and Maryland. (Hargis, 1999)
3. According to Delaware Department of Education, 2014-1014 Dropout
Summary Report several school districts in all three counties have had the
highest student dropouts.
4. Using the same strategy in Delaware, being done in New York City to
revitalize the oyster population, the best location for a maritime high
school would be located where the Delaware Bays salinity levels, and
water temperatures allow mature oysters and spats to have sustainable
habitats to grow and reproduce.
5. An ideal location should be significant in the history of Delawares
maritime history, while also allowing at risk students from all three
counties to have equal opportunities to attend the maritime school.
6. Such a location is revealed in reports, and publications from Rutgers
Universitys Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, the State of Delaware
and other resources.
IV.

Though Woodland Beach has significance to the oyster industry, it also


poses an unlikely area to have a maritime school due to several problems

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1. Access to the community is only possible during low tide.
a. To prevent road flooding, a new design of the existing road would
have to be elevated above the high water mark.
2. Insufficient private funding is available to purchase property to build a
private or charter high school
a. State funding would have to be approved through legislation to
purchase property to build a public high school capable of accepting
at least 200 students who are at risk students, likely to drop out before
graduation.

The Delaware Estuary is divided into four individual watersheds. A "watershed" is


defined in the Meriam Dictionary as the area of land that includes a particular river or
lake and all the rivers, streams, etc., that flow into it. In Delaware, there are four
watersheds The Piedmont Drainage, (the northern most portion of the state), ending at either, the
Chesapeake Bay Drainage, that begins at the Perch Creek Watershed, and passing through other
Chesapeake Bay watersheds that fall, along the entire western border of Delaware, or, the

Delaware Oysters
Delaware Bay and Estuary Basin that rises from the Delaware River watershed, extending down
Delaware, ending at the Broadkill River Watershed, and to the south in Delaware the eight
watersheds of the Inland Bays (State of Delaware, date?).
The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, for several years, in compliance to
Delaware Department of Health and Social Services have issued fish consumption warnings
throughout the entire state of Delaware due to high levels of contaminants and chemicals, such
as phosphorus, and nitrogen, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the banned insecticide DDT,
dioxins. furans and chlordane the Environmental Protection Agency deems as dangerously high,
(EPA, (2010) in nearly every watershed in Delaware. These pollutants are slow to break down
in the environment and can accumulate in epifunal and infunal organisms as well as the
sediments in lakes, streams and estuaries, (Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, Delaware
Division of Health and Social Services, 2016).

Dating as far back as the 17th century, the Delaware Bay was abundant with oyster beds.
Descriptions of Delawares oyster beds have been found in writings by Tomas Campanius Holm
dating back to 1642, describing the social and economic significance of the many natural
resources of what was known as New Sweden, surveyed from Cape Henelopen to portions of
Pennsylvania by the early Swedish settler who wrote Delaware Bay oysters were so very large
that the meat alone is the size of our oysters shell and all (Delaware Estuary Program, 2002)
Due to overharvesting and a protozoan parasite discovered in 1957- given the scientific name
MSX, a decline in the numbers of healthy oysters was discovered (Ewart, Ford, 1993). The
oyster industry suffered its most serious decreases in the number of bushels harvested declined
over 1,000 percent, from 711,000 bushels to fewer than 50,000 bushels. (Delaware Estuary

Delaware Oysters

program 2010, pg. 4). However, depleted oyster populations have not been the only problems
Delaware has faced in order to reverse these dangers on the western shoreline of the Delaware
Estuary.
There have been positive results improving the ecology in other regions of the US using
strategies to repopulate oyster beds, if done to the Delaware Estuary, more specifically the
Delaware Bay and River, these same strategies would also prove successful over time
improving the water quality and ultimately the health of the Delaware Estuary and Delawares
economy by increasing the Delaware Estuarys oyster populations, through several objectives
that include oyster gardening while better managing the estuarys oyster industry through
legislation and conservative harvest techniques, as are being conducted in other estuaries.
One example is taken from New York City, where the governor recognized the city and
state could solve two problems through one very logical strategy. Prior to 2010, New York City
was experiencing high drop-out rates among high school students. (NYC Department of
Education ,2014). While the Hudson River, especially the Gowanus Canal was polluted with
dangerously high levels of carcinogens and other chemicals harming the environment, (Orff,
2010). That same year the New York Times published an article about Urban Assembly New
York Harbor Schools endeavors to change a pattern of high drop-out rates while simultaneously
working to reduce the pollution in the harbor and revitalize the oyster population of NYC
(Kemp, 2010). Much like the Hudson River estuary, dating back to the 17th century, the
Delaware Bay and River, like the Hudson River had over one hundred square miles of thriving
oyster beds. So abundant with oysters, descriptions of the oyster beds have been found in
writings by Tomas Campanius Holm dating back to 1642, that described the social and
economic significance of the many natural resources of what was once known as New Sweden,

Delaware Oysters

surveyed from Cape Henlopen to portions of Pennsylvania by the early Swedish settler who
wrote that Delaware Bay oysters were so very large that the meat alone is the size of our
oysters shell and all, (Delaware Estuary Project, 2002). Oysters thrived in a vast abundance,
both in the Hudson Rivers estuary, and Delawares estuary up until the end of the 19th century.
Oysters of the Delaware Bay and their natural habitats should belong to all the people of
Delaware, just as The Chesapeake and their natural habitats belong to all of the people of
Virginia. They are truly part of the common wealth, former Governor of Virginia Harry F.
Byrd (Hargis and Haven, 1999), as with other common-property. Therefore, the effective
management of the Delaware Bay and River is a responsibility and function of Delawares
government.
The eastern oyster was given the scientific name Crassostrea virginica in 1791 by Johann
Friedrich Gmelin who published the description of an oyster, most likely collected and sent to
him from Virginia, (White, 2013). The eastern oyster is a versatile species of marine life, capable
to live in virtually any of the estuarine waters along coastline of North America. Oyster beds are
habitats for a wide variety of marine life. Oyster beds also provide a barrier for the protection of
shorelines from wave surges and currents while allowing a more favorable condition for a variety
submerged aquatic vegetation. (NOAA habitat conservation, n.d.). One oyster is capable of
filtering fifty gallons of water a day, and up to 2.5 gallons of water per hour (Shilling 2015).
With an abundant population of oysters in an estuary the water clarity and quality is improved.
Mr. Malinowski, a second generation oysterman and an aquaculture teacher at the
Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, is working with the students from the harbor school
on a project that combines the confluence of two extraordinary narratives:, giving at risk
students at the Harbor school and opportunity to complete high school, while working with the

Delaware Oysters
faculty of the school to save the New York Harbor through oyster gardening. (Kemp,
2010). Eighty-five percent of the students are from families living below the poverty level, and
statistically among students most likely to drop out before graduating high school (Kamp, 2010)
Janique Moore, who was 18 at the time, is evidence the school curriculum is a success.
She was one of the seniors of the high school in 2010, who lived in in East New York,
Brooklyn. The schools impact drew her to deciding whether to become an environmental
lawyer or a marine biologist. She stated, But Ill admit that when I was little, I didnt think
there were animals living in these waters. I didnt even think of New York as a harbor-y kind of
city (Kamp, 2010).
Murray Fisher is the program director at the New York Harbor School. After graduating
from Vanderbilt University, he went to work for an environmental organization, Riverkeeper,
which has been committed to protecting the Hudson River. The harbor school became his
brainstorm while with the organization; a city school, as he put it in an interview, to a
curriculum thats restoration-based and makes kids feel that theyre valuable contributing
members of society. (New York Times, 2010). Oysters are the central curriculum, not just for
the historical economic reasons, but ecologically, oysters have a vital role in providing
hospitable habitats for other marine life that include various types of crabs, as well as wide
variety of fish. Mr. Fisher stated, it would give them a relationship with a marine
environment, which hardly anyone has in New York City. (Kamp, 2010).
Delaware should do more to revitalize the maritime and commercial fishing industry by
establishing a vocational school and aquatic landscaping. According to Delaware Department of
Education, 2014-1014 Dropout Summary Report several school districts in all three counties
have experienced the highest student dropouts. M.J. Moyer Academy, with over 20%; Positive

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Outcomes, 7%; Delaware Academy of Public Safety, 5.5%; Laurel, 4.8%; Christiana and
Colonial, School districts, both having little over 4 percent of its students dropping out before
graduating high school (table 12 page 12). In New Castle County, the highest dropout risks are
M.J. Moyer Academy, and Delaware Academy of Public Safety, with next highest being
Christiana HS, and John Dickinson HS both experiencing over five percent student dropout
rates. In Kent County, Caesar Rodney HS and ESHS at DSU are above five percent, with ESHS
being the highest risk. (table 12 pg 12). And, Sussex County schools that experience the highest
dropouts; Sussex Central Sr. HS, and Cape Henlopen, both experiencing nearly at 5% of
students dropping out before graduating. (Table 12, pg 12)
Using the same strategies that have been used in New York City by having a maritime
high school and employing marine scientists to work at the school, combining the curriculum
with what is done on the Chesapeake Bay to increase oyster populations, the best location for a
maritime high school would be where the Delaware Bays salinity levels water temperatures
allow mature oysters, and spats to have sustainable habitats to grow and reproduce. (Hargis, and
Haven, 1999 pp 341,342). The ideal location for such a high school should also have some
significance in the history of Delawares maritime history, and strategically located to allow as
many at risk students from all three counties to have equal opportunities to attend the maritime
school. Such a location is unknowingly revealed in an executive summary published by
Rutgers Universitys Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory Oyster Industry Revitalization
Task Force (1999). On the Delaware side of the Delaware Bay, oyster beds were located from
the mouth, to as far north as Bombay Hook. (pg. ix). Though one location is not included in the
executive summary, another a report by Don Maurer and Les Watling, healthy oyster beds were

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located at Woodland Beach, just a few miles north of Bombay Hook, (Maurer, D and Watling,
L. 1973).
Woodland Beach was once a popular resort community with amusement rides, ferriswheel, Toboggan rides, a boardwalk, hotel and train station that transported passengers and
cargo from Chestertown, MD to Woodland Beach, stopping in Clayton, and Smyrna DE. (Town
of Smyrna (?) and Hansen, J. in Arcadia Publishing 2013). Between Woodland Beach, and
Smyrna is the community Smyrna Landing, noted by Delaware Department of Transportation
(DelDOT), as a once thriving maritime port, recognized for being the home of several ship
building companies. The largest vessel built at Smyrna Landing was a 600 -ton ship named the
H. H. Howe, built at Hastings Shipyard in Smyrna Landing, (DelDOT Pg 110, 113 n.d), and
approximately seven large schooners (80 to 120 tons) also sailed into or out of Smyrna Landing,
transporting goods and passengers to other locations along the Delaware Bay, and worldwide.
(DelDOT Pg 110, 113 n.d.) It was not uncommon for commercial vessels requiring at least
seven feet of water to navigate, sailing during high tide between Smyrna Landing and the
Delaware Bay. (DelDOT, (date?), Pg 110, 113. Smyrna Landing and Woodland were once
bolstering with prosperity due to the resort community of Woodland Beach that thrived from a
healthy commercial and recreational fishing and maritime industry. (Ramsey and Reilly ,2002,
pg 23, and Delaware Department of Transportation pg.110 n.d.)
The Delaware Estuary is composed of 45 watersheds in Delaware, with the estuary
including watersheds that rise from the Catskill Mountains of New York. Many of the
watersheds in Delaware are impacted with dangerous levels of chemicals that include PCBs
(polychlorinated biphenyl), Dioxin as with other carcinogens that place the watersheds on a
303d listing with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (Delaware Division of Fish and

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Wildlife 2016). Simply put, impaired waters are polluted waters that do not meet water quality
standards for their designated uses, such as recreation, fishing or drinking. Simply put, impaired
waters are polluted waters. (EPA, 2016)
Though Woodland Beach is significant historically to the oyster populations, it also
poses an unlikely area to have a maritime school due to several problems, access to the
community is only possible during low tide. At high tide the only road in and out of Woodland
Beach is flooded by 12-18 inches of water that covers nearly a quarter mile of the road, west of
the bridge that spans over the Smyrna Landing River. This is due to several storms that have
altered the coastline of Delaware. The first in 1874, (Ramsey pg 23) and again in 1914, when a
large storm surged up the Delaware Bay that destroyed the access to the resort town. State
lawmakers refused to repair the road and left the task to repair the road to the hotel owner. Due
to the length of time it took to regain access to the resort. It soon lost the luster it once had,
where today it is little more than a ghost town. Today there is only one road in and out of the
community that during high tide To prevent road flooding, and give adequate access to the
location, the road would have to be redesigned, either elevating the portion of the road that
floods during high tide, or extending the length of the existing bridge that is spanning over the
river that eventually feeds in to the Delaware Bay.
Funds would have to be appropriated by Delaware General Assembly, to purchase
property at Woodland beach and construct a high school capable of accommodating the
enrollment of at least 200 high school level-at risk students. I have presented this concept to
several members of Delawares General Assembly, who were seeking ways of bringing good
paying middle income jobs to Delaware. The graduates of the school would better equip
Delaware with skilled professionals for a wide variety of careers that encompass the maritime

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industry. This would also allow the Delawares economic development officers, lawmakers, and
the Department of Labor to present positive arguments to businesses that manufacture products
for the maritime industry to relocate their businesses to Delaware.

There are successful natural oyster reef experiments that developed through evolutionary
trial-and-error, proven to be beneficial in well-planned reef-restoration activities that a high
school providing such programs would benefit not only the oyster resource, the public owners,
the fishing and maritime industry as well as consumers. It is vital the Delaware Bays ecology be
known to commercial and recreational finfishermen as well. Active oyster reefs harbor many
epifaunal and infaunal organisms, that include several different species of finfish and crabs, as
well as clams, oysters and various forms of barnacle, all which are valuable to the overall health
of estuarine productivity and diversity, both ecologically and economically. These habitats attract
finfishes and other species that ultimately result in a higher number marine life and their
sustainable habitats. It will also bolster the State economically by attracting people to
participating in recreational Sport-fishing. Many of the fishing maps and maritime charts have
been used on the Delaware Bay to identify many formerly-productive oyster reefs as fishing
spots. This is no accident! More importantly, restoration of a species responsible for filtering
water, along with an increase in their associates as may occur will all be great benefits to all
Delaware citizens, as with vacationers, and the general region- and nation-wide population.

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References
David Russel Schilling Adult Oysters Filter Fifty Gallons of Water Per
Day (2015) http://www.industrytap.com/adult-oysters-filter-fiftygallons-water-per-day/28760
Delaware Department of Education (2016). 2014-2015 Delaware
Dropout statistics
http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Do
main/167/Dropout%20Summary%20Report%2020142015.revised.pdf

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Delaware Department of Transportation Smyrna River Crossing Area
Pg 110, 113 (?)
http://www.deldot.gov/archaeology/3_bridges/pdf/smyrna_riv_br.
pdf
Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife Fish consumption advisories
http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Fisheries/pages/advisories.asp
x
Delaware Estuary Program, History of the eastern oyster (2002) pg 2
https://s3.amazonaws.com/delawareestuary/publications/factsheet
s/OYSTERW.PDF
Delaware Estuary Water Quality (2010) Chapter 3 pg 78-84
http://www.delawareestuary.org/pdf/TREB/Chap3.pdf
Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) Condition of the Mid-Atlantic
estuaries http://tinyurl.com/jx9r72j
Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) Impaired Waters and TMDLs:
Statute and Regulations Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act
https://www.epa.gov/tmdl/impaired-waters-and-tmdls-statute-andregulations
Ewart, J., University of Delaware Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service and
Ford, S.E, Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, Rutgers
University History and Impact of MSX and Dermo Diseases on
Oyster Stocks In the Northeast Region, pg 1 (1993) Northeastern
Regional Aquaculture Center University of Massachusetts

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Dartmouth
https://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_docs/programs/aqua
culture/MSX%20and%20Dermo%20History.pdf
Hansen, J. in Arcadia Publishing (2013)
https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467120333
Hargis H.J and Haven, D.S Professors Emeritus of the School of Marine
Science and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science of the
College of William and Mary in Virginia Chesapeake Oyster
reefs, their importance, destruction and guidelines for restoring
them (1999)
http://www.vims.edu/research/units/labgroups/molluscan_ecology
/_docs/HargisHaven.PDF .
Maurer, D. and Watling, L. (1973) Oyster Industry Revitalization Task
Force Report to the governor and legislature of the State of New
Jersey (1999) https://rucore.libraries.rutgers.edu/rutgerslib/34871/
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graduation rates class of 2014 (cohort 2010)
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http://www.habitat.noaa.gov/pdf/ecology_of_oysters.pdf
Orff, K. Reviving New York's rivers -- with oysters! Tedwomen (2010)
http://www.ted.com/talks/kate_orff_oysters_as_architecture#t553796

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Ramsey and Reilly 2002 Delaware City Hurricane of October 21-24
1878 pg 23.
http://delawarecity.delaware.gov/files/2014/12/1878Hurricane.pdf
State of Delaware. Delaware Watersheds (University of Delaware), 2016
http://delawarewatersheds.org/
Town of Smyrna http://smyrna.delaware.gov/110/Nature
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Bay, (1973) http://udspace.udel.edu/handle/19716/5187
White, Q., Exec Dir. Jacksonville Univ. Marine Science Research
Institute, River life: Oysters have interesting tastes but you
shouldnt try the ones in St. Johns
http://jacksonville.com/business/premium/columnists/2013-0627/story/quinton-white-river-life-oysters-have-interesting-tastesyou