Harvesting oysters in Fairhope, Alabama is a complex process that requires the expertise of Marine Resources biologists. Before participating in this fishery, it is essential to stay informed about the laws and regulations in force. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the Alabama Department of Public Health (Seafood Division) monitor the waters surrounding oyster reefs to guarantee safety and sustainability. Unlike many other foods, wild-caught oysters are harvested, processed, and sold based on volume, not weight.
Oyster pickers capture oyster tubs, sacks, and barrels while oyster huskers are paid per gallon of shelled meat. Consumers buy bags of whole oysters and gallons, half gallons, or pints of oyster meat. Oysters are attracted to the smell that other oysters give off in the fifty gallons of seawater they filter every day. The Marine Resources Division conserves oysters by requiring licenses, imposing 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. A license is not necessary to catch oysters for recreational purposes, but an oyster plate must be purchased at an MRD oyster management center before they hit the road. Andy's work with Vibrio, a natural bacterium common in estuaries, including fish and shellfish, underpins national and international control plans to reduce the risk of gastroenteritis and more serious diseases caused by the consumption of raw shellfish, especially oysters.
Bacteria and other contaminants cause problems for oysters because they feed by filtration and can concentrate harmful substances in their body tissues. The aquaculture industry in Alabama has developed over time and has contributed more oysters (the whole item) and more dollars. When salinity is high, oysters are very likely to be destroyed by oysters (snails), crabs and a small parasite called dermus. Oyster snails are a common predator that feeds on oysters and are a major pest that often has to be eliminated by hand to save the crop. I remember when I was a child I went fishing to Dauphin Island and saw small skiffs with men with long tongs who collected wild oysters from oyster farms and piled them up on the decks of their ships. Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer wild-caught oysters, as oyster farms have become exhausted and replenishment conditions have become more difficult.
Runoff is full of pathogens and nutrients, causing frequent closures for oyster harvesting and harmful algae blooms. Oyster farming is the cultivation of oysters for non-consumption purposes to improve habitat or benefit the environment. Recreational oyster pickers are also limited to 100 oysters per person per day during the days and times when the reef is open. Harvesting oysters in Fairhope, Alabama requires knowledge of laws and regulations as well as an understanding of the aquaculture industry. It is important to stay up-to-date on all information related to this fishery in order to ensure safety and sustainability.
With proper knowledge and preparation, harvesting wild-caught oysters can be a rewarding experience. In addition to understanding the laws governing oyster harvesting in Fairhope, Alabama, it is also important to understand how oyster aquaculture works. Aquaculture involves cultivating oysters for non-consumption purposes such as improving habitat or benefiting the environment. It is also important to be aware of potential predators such as oyster snails which can cause significant damage to oyster crops if not eliminated by hand. Finally, it is important to understand how runoff can affect oyster harvesting due to its high levels of pathogens and nutrients which can lead to frequent closures for oyster harvesting. Harvesting oysters in Fairhope, Alabama can be a rewarding experience if done correctly.
It is essential to stay informed about laws and regulations as well as understand how aquaculture works in order to ensure safety and sustainability. With proper knowledge and preparation, harvesting wild-caught oysters can be an enjoyable activity.