Friday I had a firsthand look at an oyster farm on Long Island, NY. It is the Aeros Cultured Oyster Company based out of Southold, NY.
The farmer grows her own algae for the oysters to feed on. The green tanks in these pictures are algae that is being grown. Before water is put into the tanks, it is pasteurized to make sure there isn’t any bacteria that could infect the algae or the oysters.
The algae is fed to the juvenile oysters that are in the hatchery. On this particular farm, the oysters are spawned in a hatchery starting in February.
Adult oysters are put in warm water to trick them into thinking it is the spring when they would be spawning naturally. This process occurs about every 3 weeks until June, when the hatchery is shut down for the season. The hatchery provides young oysters to a number of farms.
Two weeks after the larvae are spawned, they reach a period of metamorphosis and go to the bottom of the tank to attach themselves to shell fragments so they have something to latch on to as they begin to grow their own shells. The farmer said any type of shell fragments will do, they don’t have to be oyster shells.
Once the young oysters grow to be about 2 mm across (about twice the size of the head of a pin), they are transferred to a tank in a building closer to the water, where water from the Peconic Bay (the water body between the North and South Forks of Long Island) is pumped through their tanks and they feed on nutrients in the water. For the first batch of oysters, which are spawned in February, they reach this size in mid-March.
The oysters are eventually transferred to mesh bags when they are an inch long (at the beginning of May for that February batch of oysters). They continue to grow until two years after they were spawned when they are large enough to be harvested and sold to restaurants around New York.
Check out Blue Ocean’s ranking for Oysters to learn more.