THE SCIENCE BEHIND OYSTERS
Oysters play an important role in the marine ecosystem. Oysters are filter feeders, which means that they take in their nutrients by filtering ocean water through their bodies. Once they take in their food, they then expel clean water back into the ocean. One oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. Because oysters filter water, they improve water quality, increase fish habitat, and lower the effects of eutrophication (nutrient influx from land) by removing those nutrients from the ecosystem. Oysters’ natural ability to cleanse the ocean make them the ideal organism to foster a sustainable environment for both the marine ecosystem and human users of the ocean.
Up through the early 1900s, oysters were the most abundant shellfish along the coast of Rhode Island. Oyster processing, including shucking, packing, and shipping, provided many jobs to the people of Rhode Island. In addition, oysters provided a healthy food source.
FROM SEEDS TO SHUCK
Oysters started from seed are around just a few millimeters in size. They look like an oyster, but they are the size of a thumbnail. We buy them from a local shellfish nursery and then we house them in floating mesh bags in our leased zone. These bags are attached to a longline system and allow us to regularly check the bags to ensure their health and growth. While the oysters are growing in the floating mesh bags, they feed on naturally occurring phytoplankton. Phytoplankton, such as micro algae, pass through the bags where the oysters then take in the water and start the filtering process. The floating mesh bags are naturally tumbled and flipped by wave energy which keeps the oysters clean and gives the oysters their cupped shape. We occasionally manually clean the oyster bags and redistribute the oysters by size to other floating bags.
Once our oysters reach market size, we harvest them from the bags to be cleaned and packed for sale. Our oysters will be sold locally at farmers markets and to local restaurants, vineyards, and breweries. We invite you to participate in maintaining Rhode Island’s heritage by trying one of our oysters!