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Oyster orgy: Galveston Bay Foundation fundraiser is a mollusk lover's delight

Photo by Danny Kamin
Oyster fundraiser, April 2013, someone holding an oyster

It's oyster season and there was no better place for lovers of the divine shellfish than Tommy’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar in Clear Lake for a recent tasting event that included 12 different types of Gulf Coast specialities.

The Second Annual Tommy's Oyster Appellation Tasting benefited the Galveston Bay Foundation and raised awareness about the fragile ecosystem of the bay and what can be done to protect it.

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Now this is an oyster!

Photo by Danny Kamin
Oyster fundraiser, April 2013, Bethany Woody

Why use utensils? Bethany Woody shows the pro's way to down an oyster.

Photo by Danny Kamin
Oyster fundraiser, April 2013, Tom Tollett orginated the tasting event of Appelation oysters

Tollett, shown here getting the oyster tasting ready, sells more than 10,000 oysters on-the-half-shell each week at his restaurant and has recycled more than 110 tons of oyster shells to help build new oyster beds in Galveston Bay.

"The oyster is the keystone species of the bays," Tollett says. "If the oysters are safe and healthy, fish and other aquatic wildlife are as well."

Photo by Danny Kamin
Oyster fundraiser, April 2013, Matt Abernathy-GBF Community Outreach

Texas A&M- Galveston, the Galveston Bay Foundation and nearby restaurants and businesses have combined to create a two-year-old pilot program to recycle oyster shells to make reefs as habitats for other sea life.  

The empty oyster shells from Tommy’s and other businesses are set out in a five-acre field supervised by Texas A&M-Galveston researchers. The shells are bleached in the sun for six weeks and then returned to Galveston Bay to re-seed its oyster beds. Over the past two years 40 percent of the bay's oyster beds have been re-seeded with 150 tons of recycled oyster shells.

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Galveston Bay Foundation's Matt Abernathy holds some of the oyster shells that will be recycled. 

Photo by Danny Kamin
Oyster fundraiser, April 2013, Jessica Curran, membership director for GBF provided reef maps

Each guest was given a map of Galveston Bay showing each appellation and tasting notes where guests may record the salinity, texture, minerality and aftertaste of each oyster. “Only 90 out of a 1,000 oysters will bear its appellation's name,”  Tollett said.

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Jessica Curran, membership director for the Galveston Bay Foundation, provided reef maps.

Photo by Danny Kamin
Oyster fundraiser, April 2013, Dana Thierry, Curtis Thierry

“A side-by-side tasting is the only way to educate one’s palate on the subtle, yet very distinctive flavors of these different oysters,” Tollett said. “By naming the oyster, we hope the oyster-loving consumer will help us protect the oysters and ensure a healthy and clean bay.”

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Dana and Curtis Thierry enjoy an oyster moment.
 

Photo by Danny Kamin
Oyster fundraiser, April 2013, No one went hungry

The afternoon event consisted of a side-by-side tasting of 12 different oyster appellations from Galveston Bay reefs. No one went away hungry.

 

 

 

Photo by Danny Kamin
Oyster fundraiser, April 2013, map of reefs and leases

Detail of a map of reefs and leases in Galveston Bay. One of the many goals of the Galveston Bay Foundation is to encourage the growth and harvest of healthy oysters by ensuring freshwater flows, because a healthy oyster means a healthy bay full of healthy sea life – fish, shrimp, turtles and man. “If we are going to have healthy oysters to eat,” stated Tollett, “we must have a healthy bay.”

Photo by Danny Kamin
Oyster fundraiser, April 2013, Jeri Nelson and Dr. Ray

The event honored Sammy Ray, right, a marine biology professor at Texas A&M University and world-renowned oyster expert. (With Ray in photo is Jeri Nelson.)

Ray's contributions to oyster disease research are widely acclaimed, due in no small part to the diagnostic method he developed to detect the disease agent Dermocystidium marinum. Dr. Ray was one of a handful of investigators in the early 1950's to explore this new oyster disease found in the Gulf of Mexico. Now the disease agent is called Perkinsus marinus and molecular techniques can be used to specifically diagnose the protozoan pathogen. Nonetheless, the highly reliable diagnostic technique developed by Dr. Ray is still the most widely used in oyster disease studies.

“Dr. Sammy is the foremost authority of oysters, and has played an important role in the health of oysters and of Galveston Bay,” Tollett said. “It is a great pleasure to honor him for his lifelong contributions to the oyster industry.”