When it comes to oysters, Alabama is a haven for a variety of species. The most commercially important type is the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea Virginia), which belongs to the phylum Mollusca, along with mussels and scallops, clams, snails, squid and octopods. Memorist Rick Bragg has described the pleasant land along Mobile Bay's stretch of brown sand. To maintain the oyster population, the Alabama Department of Public Health (Seafood Division) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (Marine Resources Division) monitor the waters surrounding oyster reefs.
In addition, large quantities of clam shells or other materials are often planted after natural disasters, and oyster shells are periodically planted to replace shells extracted during the harvesting process. The Alabama seafood aquaculture industry produces oysters (Crassostrea virginica) by bottom rearing, using an adjustable longline system and floating cages. Oysters Alabama is dedicated to the commercialization of oysters grown or harvested in Alabama and to the growth and development of this coastal industry. Bacteria and other contaminants can be a problem for oysters because they feed by filtration and can concentrate harmful substances in their body tissues.
As resources become available through the Alabama Oyster Shell Recycling Program or similar initiatives, there continue to be significant opportunities for planting oyster shells. During this time, the oyster aquaculture industry in Alabama has developed and has contributed more oysters (reportedly) and more dollars. The vast majority of Admiral's oysters are consumed in upscale restaurants in Alabama and in Gulf states such as Florida, Louisiana and Texas. The Marine Resources Division conserves oysters by requiring licenses, enforcing a size limit of 3 inches (caught in the wild) and allowing oysters to be caught only by hand or with clamps on public reefs. In commercial operations, this risk is controlled by allowing oysters to be collected only in waters that the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has classified as “conditionally approved” through a nationally recognized sampling process. From Dauphin Island to Bon Secour, oyster farmers are creating a culinary portrait of the landscape with the unique flavors that define Alabama oysters.
The Marine Resources Division also plants oyster shells or clam shells to provide new substrate for oyster larvae to settle and grow. Prolonged periods of low oxygen can also result in high localized oyster mortality, as they cannot seek more favorable conditions. Enjoy a dozen oysters from a dozen farms or reefs along the Alabama coast and enjoy twelve unique flavors, each created by the variations in salinity, nutrients and temperature of local waters.