All you have to do to fish for oysters is walk along the beach at low tide and pick them up. No joke. After moving to New England, I’ve learned that most shellfishing is basically scraping the shore for rocks that are actually food.
For about a year, I assumed all of these treasures I was scooping into my basket were completely wild and self-sustaining. But it turns out there’s usually a huge undertaking to get these rocks to where I can pick them up and eat them.
Last weekend I volunteered with the Falmouth Department of Marine and Environment to help move some oysters to their ultimate residences around town. We started in Little Pond, where 1.6 million baby oysters were waiting to be pulled in from their floating sacks, poured into totes, delivered to different beaches, and thrown into the water like candy from a parade float.
The original oyster seeds are purchased in Maine from oyster farm companies (I am still completely void and ignorant on this upbringing). Falmouth puts these in sacks where the seeds can be protected and contained, then set in chains in saltwater ponds. These seeds filter the water and become an integral part of the local ecosystems. I’m no marine biologist, but I can tell you that the most intriguing part of this lesson for me was when I pointed out that one sack had poop on it. A man said they were otter droppings, to which I squealed in delight. River otters. Were here.
After about 6-7 months the seed sacks are pulled in, and the baby oysters are taken to different beaches around town. Here they will grow for about another year before these zones are opened for recreational and commercial fishing, at which time I will continue scraping the seafloor for food.