Inland was delighted to be part of the third annual Oyster Roast for a Reason hosted by the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. We spent a perfect evening on beautiful Skidaway Island near Savannah with 400 of our closest friends and helped raise over $30,000 for the UGA Oyster Hatchery. We shucked and ate a lot of delicious Georgia oysters, too!
If you’re thinking, “Wait, I didn’t think you could grow oysters in Georgia” you’re mostly right. The Georgia grown oysters you find on the market are usually wild oyster clusters—great if you want to host a hands-on oyster roast—but there’s not enough money in those kinds of oysters to build a real industry out of.
It may be hard to imagine, but a century ago, Georgia led the nation in oyster production. With a peak annual harvest of nearly 8 million pounds of oyster meat, Georgia’s oyster harvest kept canneries busy until the last one closed in the 1960’s. Declining demand for canned oysters plus over harvesting equaled the demise of this once lucrative industry.
We’d like to get back to those good ol’days! What we’re working towards is a robust system of planning, permitting, and regulation of leases where oyster farmers are allowed to set up formal systems for growing single oysters. That takes a lot more effort than just collecting wild clusters.
There are a few farmers utilizing provisional oyster farming permits from the DNR, but that doesn’t equal a lot of oysters. What we want is a consistent supply of Georgia grown singles, and we’ve still got a way to go.
We are making progress. Once the state has the plan, along with the personnel to monitor and enforce the plan, and the budget to pay for it all, we’ll see the first Georgia oyster seeds go into full production.
Many of those seeds will come from the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory which opened in 2015. They are already producing millions of baby oysters (called spat) and are ready to move them into grow out facilities as soon as possible.
Once the spat finds a home of Georgia waters it will be some time until those singles are ready to harvest. We’ll be waiting!
Stay tuned - and let us know if you’d like to help!