Not So Great Catch of the Day: Eastern Oyster
Scientific Name: Crassotrea virginica
Rachel’s Name: The Trawl Chewer
Oysters are really important to the estuarine ecosystem. Really important. They provide structure, habitat, and ‘scrub’ the waters through filter feeding of harmful pathogens. They were nearly wiped out in Georgia at the turn of the century because of a thriving canning industry. It wasn’t that we ate them to death, but we used the shells in construction on land rather than returning them to the water. Young oysters (called spat) need hard structure to attach themselves to and start growing. By removing the only hard structure around (other oyster shells) we made it difficult for oysters to reproduce. Now, there is a concerted effort in Georgia to restore oyster reefs – so recycle those oyster shells!
That said, oysters absolutely are terrible for trawls. We destroyed one net (or so I thought) on oysters on the third day of the round. No problem, we had another net.
We put that on and I set the other one aside to be repaired if I could in the future. Then the rains came – and oh, did they stick around for a long time. We lost 3 -4 days of potential sample time. On our first day back out on the water, now with a measly 15 possible sample days left and 10 days needed, we were anxious to get started again.
The first six trawls went without a hitch. The seventh? Woe. You guessed it. Oysters. Now the ‘head size’ holes look like child’s play. The hole ripped in the second trawl was large enough that a toddler could walk through. Nets with holes don’t catch squat. “Why did you trawl there?” you might ask. Well, I had trawled in the same exact spot two times before and had not a single problem.
The net is beyond repair. I had to look into trying repairing the other one as best I could. They don’t teach you the proper stitch in Home Economics for repairing a torn trawl, but as long as it held it didn’t need to look pretty. I used 20 lb fishing line with some mason twine as the anchor. So far, so good. It’s been holding up ever since. I’ll post some more real “catch of the days” soon.