All About Oyster Farming

Farming oysters takes years of knowledge and practice to accomplish. A deep knowledge of the waters, the year cycle, and optimal harvest times is required. Here we will go over what the process comprises.

There was a time when there were limitless supplies of oysters, but after generations of aggressive oyster harvesting, the wild oyster population faced an unprecedented decline. Today, most oysters you eat at restaurants originate from farms similar to ours, but methods of farming can vary on region and farmer preference.

This process begins with the selection of adult oysters for breeding, which can be determined by disease resistance, shape, fast growth, and other factors. Farmers stimulate the breeding process by placing them in special tanks which manipulate the temperature and amount of food. This is what causes oysters to spawn. Once they have bred, the fertilized eggs transform into millions of free-swimming larvae.

In just a few weeks, spat (young oysters) will start to attach to nearby surfaces such as platforms of ground shell (AKA “clutch”).

Two Main Farming Methods

The two most common methods of farming oysters include bottom culture and off-bottom culture. Bottom culture utilizes the natural sea floor as a base for oyster farms, producing oysters with stronger shells thanks in part to minerals on the sea bed. However, with this method, oysters are more exposed and not all of them survive as a result.

Off-bottom culture grows oysters in controlled environments floating in the open water, which is safer for development. Forms of off-bottom culturing include cage culturing, tray culturing, and rack and bag culturing, and each method comes with its own drawbacks and benefits.

Despite the method used, there’s no doubt that oyster farming provides many benefits to the environment. That’s because oysters filter and clean the water, leaving the area cleaner than it would otherwise be.

How Oysters Make Pearls

If you’re like many people, you may be curious as to how oysters make pearls. These pearls are actually calcium carbonate spheres produced by some oyster species. The Eastern oyster, popular in the United States, does not produce pearls. It’s unclear why oysters produce pearls at all, as they don’t need to create them in the first place.

Pearls result from an irritant, such as debris or an insect, that gets stuck inside the soft tissue of this mollusk. The oyster surrounds the foreign material with cells until a pillow called a “pearl sac” forms. That sac then releases a calcium carbonate substance known as “nacre,” which then coats the foreign object and protects the oyster’s body.

The oyster will continue adding a coating to the object for as long as it stays inside the shell. This means the pearl will continue to grow in size. Most pearls formed in nature are irregular in both color and shape – not the polished versions you see in jewelry stores.

Contact HM Terry Co.

Interested in learning more about our farming processes? Feel free to place your order with us at 757-442-7006 today. Our farm-raised Sewansecott oysters are harvested from the pristine waters of the Eastern Shore for the ultimate in flavor and texture.