The oysters, they are growing.
The biggest of last year’s crop are now a little over two inches – still an inch from legal, but way bigger than the pinheads they were this time last year.
Oysters grow by forming a thin, sharp mantle on the edge of their shell. They tend to grow in spurts, and the new growth shows clearly as a white ridge. Big ridge, fast growth. Small ridge or no ridge, slow growth.
Our yearlings are now big and heavy enough to be taken out of the bags, which protect them from predators and wave action, and dumped into trays. Kevin and I spent yesterday morning lining the trays with half-inch plastic mesh (so nothing falls through), and transferring all the oysters from their bags.
A couple things happen when we transfer to trays. For starters, the oysters are lower in the water, and being lower in the water means spending more time wet and less time dry. Our bags sit on top of the trays, which are four inches deep. If the tide takes fifteen minutes to come in or go out four inches, that translates to an hour more of feeding time per oyster per day.
They also have more room to maneuver in trays. When they’re confined in bags, less water flows around them, which means less food, and their movement is constricted, which means they have a tendency to attach to each other and form clusters.
The seed we put out earlier this season now looks like oysters, rather than quinoa. They were pinheads only a month ago, and now the biggest of them is almost half an inch. We’ll be transferring them to stiff two-millimeter mesh bags and putting them on top of the trays with the more mature oysters some time in the next few weeks.
And next week, we’re getting 100,000 more pinhead-size seed. That’ll mean we’ll have over a quarter-million oysters out there, ranging in size from a millimeter to over two inches. A quarter million. That’s nothing compared to the millions that some of the bigger local producers do, but it still sounds like a lot to me. A quarter million.