Life Cycle of the Cuttyhunk Oyster®:
• Spawning of Oysters in May with external fertilization.
• Free-swimming larve (10-14 days).
• Placed in settling tanks and collected on small pieces of shell.
• Placed in growing trays, feed on natural phytoplankton.
• First year growth up to 25mm.
• Second year, Oysters are graded, sized and maintained in
off- bottom aquaculture nets.
• Fast-growing Oysters are harvested 12 months later in their
• Slow-growing Oysters are harvested 2-3 years later.
• 1 inch seed planted in April.
• 6 weeks later, Oysters are inspected and maintained as needed.
• Early July, Oysters are seived, sized, and re-netted.
• August - September, Nets are cleaned and maintained.
• Fall, Weekly harvest of Oysters as needed.
Range is from Newfoundland to to Texas. Oysters take on different flavors due to the local water temperature, salinity, and phytoplankton type. Oysters tend to be cheaper per unit in the south. Then, as you move up the coast towards New England oysters become higher in value.
If you are ever wondering what we do on the farm, we pull the nets out of the water, dump out the oysters, wash them, sort them, count them, wash again and bag them! We put the small ones back in the water and shuck up the big ones for your enjoyment! Still harvesting now for the holiday season!Posted by Cuttyhunk Shellfish Farms on Monday, December 7, 2015
West End Pond Quick Facts
Temperture Range: 0-20° C
Average Pond Depth: 2 m
Growth Cycle: April - November
Pond Size: 30 acres
Pond Type: Daily semi-diurnal saltwater exchange.
Food Source: Natural phytoplankton production.
Nutrient Source: Natural runoff from surrounding land
Harvest Season: June - February
Annual Harvest Yeild: 80,000 -100,000 Oysters
WHAT IT TAKES TO BRING YOU THE BEST OYSTERS IN THE BAY
Imagine a blue pickup truck sitting on a wharf on Fishers Island, New York, loaded to the limit with 35 burlap bags filled with 2.5 cm seed oysters (appx. 90,000 oysters). Destination, the West End pond. After a ferry ride across the sound, a drive up the coast, a trip across Buzzards Bay, and a final 4 km drive to the West End pond, the life of a Cuttyhunk oyster begins. This 'planting' process begins in late April. The seed oysters are scooped into round Japanese lantern nets (500 per net) sewn up, and hung from buoys in the pond. The oysters feed off of phytoplankton which naturally grows in the pond. They remain in the nets until mid June when the nets are raised and cleaned of any sea growth (biofouling). In mid July the sieving process begins. A typical day starts with a five member team meeting at The Harbor Raw Bar at 8 am sharp. The tasks of the day are reviewed, and then the team travels energetically out to the pond by truck and hoofs it about 300 meters to where the work barge is kept. The real work starts at 8:30. The engine is fired up and the barge and crew proceed out to the line of buoys that will be serviced for that day.
Shaking and Sieving
This process of shaking is done to empty the nets of the oysters that have been growing inside them. The seam is unsewn and the oysters are emptied into crates. The oysters are then washed and sent to the sieving station. The crates are emptied into a two tiered sieve, where the strongest team member shakes the system vigorously for 60 seconds. With this motion, the largest oysters are separated from the slower growing oysters, which are again washed and reloaded into clean dry nets, resewn and rehung. This gives the oysters new space to grow, clean nets to grow in, and allows us to inventory our crop. As the sieving process is going o n, the dirty nets must be picked of any stuck oysters, and any holes must be mended. The biofouled nets are then put on shore at the end of the shift to dry. Nets from th e previous day are flipped over so the net is able to dry off quickly for reuse at a later date. This process lasts for three to four hours; then the crew heads back for lunch and other assignments. The sieving cycle of the nets takes about three weeks.
During the summer growing season the oysters grow at a rapid rate, but so does every other invertebrate in the pond. Many species of tunicates, sea weeds, and sponges grow all over the lantern nets. We actually create a very healthy mid water reef that supports thousands of crabs, fish and eels. All of these creatures compete for food, add weight to the nets, and limit the flow of water through them. Periodically during the season, the West End team uses a 3 inch reduced to a half inch tip high pressure pump system to remove all the excess growth from the nets. The nets are hauled up, sprayed off, inspected for growth status, logged in the company journal, repaired if necessary, and then returned to the water all in about three minutes per net. This is a lot of labor but the growth of the oyster is greatly enhanced by this process.
The final process to bring you our great oyster is harvesting. During the summer months the oysters are separated by size. The largest, fastest growing units have been sitting in the pond since August slurping in the delicious phytoplankton for 8 weeks and they are plump and ready for sale. A typical day of harvesting includes a team of three that hauls up, dumps, washes and hand sorted 20 nets at a time. From this effort approximately 2400 oysters are harvested; the remaining small oysters are loaded into 17 nets and put back in the pond for more growth to be re-harvested at a later date. This process goes on until mid-January.
HAZARD ANALYSIS CRITICAL CONTROL POINT (HAACP) REGULATIONS
Recently the Federal government passed a set of rules and regulations that the State Food and Drug Administration has to enforce. These rules regulate the handling of all seafood from the time it is caught until it arrives at your table or cockpit for consumption. The law looks at how the cleanliness of the product and how it is handled. At each level of handling, CSFI identifies potential sources of contamination and has developed a plan to correct it. The ultimate goal of these regulations are to ensure that the seafood, wherever it is going, arrives as safe and as fresh as possible. This extra work is for your consumer protection. This winter CSFI worked closely with the State Food and Drug Administration inspectors to make our work place a HACCP approved facility.