Monday, December 7, 2009



Disclaimer: All equipment is FOB Wake, VA and does not include shipping /crating and/or handling. Some equipment listed may require a certain lead time for delivery to be discussed/determined at time of sale.  100% payment is due before end of sale date.


No used equipment available as of  1/2020 

CALL 804-338-6530

CALL 804-338-6530 


Thursday, December 3, 2009


Check this out! This is real live MISTLETOE, it fell out of the tree over the boathouse last night in a storm. Eventhough it was 65 degrees out today it was a reminder that Christmas Season is here.

More mistletoe (the leafy clumps) in the tree it fell out of

Christmas time is a great time for oysters. If you are growing them be sure to eat some, better yet give some as a present, better still have some friends over and serve them up for them. They'll be looking to come to your house every long as you have the oysters.
If you need some we can hook you up.

Another great gift is to set someone up with a little oyster garden of their own. Any of these small oyster gardening set-ups are available for Christmas morning. Above, you see the taylor float and flip float, below are bags, cages, trays, flip bag, aussie bag, and the others from above.

Want their garden to be complete but don't want the smell of oyster seed dieing under the christmas tree, we can give you a gift certificate so when they are ready to put the garden in they can call us up and bring their certificate over for their seed.

And finally you can always give a hat or a t-shirt, check them out on the our web site.

If you really want to wow them just go for the whole enchilada give them some
oysters to eat
a garden set up so they can grow their own
a hat
some t-shirts
a pair of gloves and a shucking knife so they can feel official.
Heck, we'll even throw in some fresh mistletoe!

Have a
and a

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Great Article About Our Buddies on the Eastern Shore

By Lorraine Eaton
The Virginian-Pilot
© November 4, 2009
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Parting Creek as "Pardon Creek" and Bayport as "Bayside."


A few weeks back, I met a new oyster.

This oyster lived in a curiously shaped shell, cupped on the bottom, level on the top, different from the flattish oysters I'm accustomed to slurping. The meat inside looked different, too - rounded and plumpish, not quite compact, but not as spread out as other oysters.

The cupped shape would make this a perfect oyster for shooting, I thought, but only if it delivered a satisfying oyster taste.

So I slurped one down - and it was like no oyster I'd eaten. The meat had a rich flavor, and the pool of salty, milky liquor delivered a sensation of the sea.


The fishmonger said these bivalves hailed from Virginia's Eastern Shore and called them Hog Island oysters.

A few phone calls to state fisheries officials put me in touch with Pete Terry, owner of H.M. Terry Co. Terry is a third-generation waterman who raises infant oysters on a dock in Willis Wharf, about 25 miles up the Eastern Shore, then moves them to reach harvest size in Hog Island Bay.

On an early fall day, clear and warm, Terry stood at the edge of Parting Creek near his family's Willis Wharf clam house. He looked eastward past the landscape he thinks makes his oysters taste so good.

About a mile out, a low silhouette of trees separates the greenish water of Parting Creek from the bright blue sky. Beyond the trees flows the Machipongo River, which is fed by the salty expanse of Hog Island Bay. Two fingers of land - Hog Island and Cobb Island - are the only barriers between the bay and the endless Atlantic.

No one lives on this land. The craggy islands and waters on the Atlantic side of the Eastern Shore, from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay to Chincoteague, are protected by a jigsaw puzzle of private organizations and government agencies and cannot be developed.

In addition, a tidal flow of four to five feet provides a "tremendous" flushing action in the deepwater creek, Terry said.

"This is the only place on the East Coast where there is no inland river impacting our water quality," he said. "Everything we have almost is fresh ocean water."


Terry's grandfather harvested wild Eastern Shore oysters, canned them and sold them under the brand name Sewansecott. But a double scourge of diseases crippled the bivalve population, along with the once-storied reputation of Virginia oysters.

Today, the Sewansecott brand is stamped on boxes of oysters that get their start on this dock in Willis Wharf in a series of 44 narrow, rectangular tanks, each 16 feet long, each filled with plastic buckets lined up lip to lip. The operation seems simple, but there's a lot of biology and technology behind it.

Terry's partner in the oyster venture is Tom Gallivan, who studied aquaculture at the University of Maine and worked for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Standing on the dock, Gallivan explained that each bu cket holds tens of thousands of baby oyst ers. In his hand, they looked like tiny chips of pine bark.

A pump forces the Parting Creek water that Terry talked about into the tanks and buckets. The oysters feed on the algae and phytoplankton, and the water, cleaner still because of the oysters' filtration, flows back into the creek.

When the oysters grow large enough, Terry and Gallivan set them into mesh baskets and submerge them onto leased bottomlands on both sides of the Eastern Shore.

Terry's oysters are seasides that grow to harvest size in Hog Island Bay. Gallivan tends his "Nassawadox Salts" on a football-sized plot of leased bottomland on Nassawadox Creek near Bayport on the west ern side. A shucking house built in 1888 still stands at the creek's edge, attesting to the long tradition of oystering in this very spot.

The main difference between Terry's "seaside" Sewansecotts and Gallivan's "bayside" Nassawadox Salts is salinity. The baysides are about 22 parts salt per thousand, while the seasides are about 32.


Later that day aboard the Oyster Queen, Gallivan's battered work boat, the partners pulled a basket out of the creek using an electric winch. The boat pitched to port side, and when the basket settled on the boat deck, it was covered in clots of seaweed and smelled like low tide.

Inside, it teemed with life. Sea squirts shot water, while tiny crabs skittered for cover and a few fish flopped out. But mostly, there were oysters, hundreds of shells sticking up this way and that, slathered in chocolate-colored mud, with the distinctive cup shape.

Gallivan explained that the shape is the result of several passes through a tumbler, where the "bill," or sharp outer edges of the oyster, is chipped off. The oysters go in the tumbler each time they are culled for size and moved into baskets with mesh walls with an increasingly wider weave. Altogether, the oysters take about two years to bring to market size.

Terry hosed down the oysters, and Gallivan picked one up and opened it with a pocketknife. It was almost as plump as a baby's cheek.

When the oysters reach market size, Terry and Gallivan hand-select them for packing. They are tumbled one last time and cleaned before going into 100-count boxes.

In Willis Wharf, you can buy a 100-count box of Sewansecotts or Nassawadox Salts for $35. On this side of the Chesapeake Bay, George's Seafood in Norfolk sells Sewansecotts for $50 a box. It's a premium price, considering that wild-caught Eastern Shore oysters are going for $40 a box. Welton's Seafood Markets in Norfolk's Ghent and at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront sell them for $8.99 a dozen.

Meanwhile, Terry and Gallivan are marketing the oysters in New York and around Raleigh, N.C. But they're catching on locally.

"I have a lot of people ordering them," said Rick Geers, co-owner of George's Seafood. "They're the most consistent oyster I've seen in all my years in the business. There's no thing better."

Lorraine Eaton, (757) 446-2697,

Check out the video that went along with the story.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009



- Lemon zest, orange zest, ginger, white wine vinegar, chili pepper OR (Tabasco), sugar, corn syrup
- Serve cold with cold half shell oysters
Here it is without the sauce on the oysters, plus it is a dipping sauce, but it looks cool on them.


- Butter, lemon juice, garlic salt, green onions, parmesan cheese
- Serve hot with steamed oysters
- Add more parmesean and maybe a little cream, then pour sauce and oysters together over angel hair pasta…NICE!

Friday, October 9, 2009


We had a visit from our buddy Shawn from SEAPA this week and he left us with some killer samples of their new line of oyster baskets.

We had messed around with SEAPA stuff in the past and weren't impressed, felt flimsy, had hard to open doors, funny colors, and we basically wrote them off. Well, our tune is way different now, the stuff is solid, the doors open smooth and easy, the stuff is all black (lots of anti-UV), and it comes now in multiple sizes...bottom is now customizable to our situations and we think this gear could do well in our area.

They have two categories "LONGLINE" and "MULTIPURPOSE". The longline baskets are similar to the old style but the multipurpose are just that, they can be used in a variety of ways.


The longest multipurpose basket is about 44", the post in the picture is about 4.5 feet tall.

So, the door and cap on the multipurpose basket is a bit bulky but that is done by design. Notice the square holes and the round holes in the diamond shapes. The diamond with round hole allows for stacking of the baskets so they can be locked together for ladder style hanging or just stacking, or bundling them together.

The square hole design allows for running rails across the basket to rest on racks. (photo courtesy of

They have a new cap design on the longline baskets which was streamline and again easy to use.

I still think the thing that got our attention the most besides the extra big multipurpose basket was the 3mm seed basket. This thing could make seed work a snap, especially if you use it from a dock. It was a little bit more pricey because of the amount of plastic but you wouldn't need too many.

At the end of this post, I have some videos about the seapa system and one shows the Australian method of doing longlines on treated pine posts...hmmm...sounds like docks and piers...if you happen to think that way, below are the clips you would/could use to attach the baskets.
Otherwise, we think a rack method might work, but like everything else its all situational.

If you want to see the baskets first hand we will have them at the Virginia Aquacultural Conference Nov 13-14 2009 in Williamsburg, VA; at the East Coast Commercial Fishermen's and Aquacultural Trade Show in Ocean City, MD Jan 29-31 2010; or just call and stop by the office to check them out.

Oh yeah, no need to book a flight to Australia, we'll have some in shortly, if you have certain styles you are interested in speak up soon.


SEAPA basket assembly... this guy is using a "jig"( aluminum angle with two welded posts) to form the tube, he is way fast but the ends still need to be snapped on which isn't too bad.

The music is a little cheesy but the pictures are great. Side note, notice they don't work their oysters on the water, that is all done inland in a "shed" where they keep their hi-tech sorting and washing gear.

This is SEAPA's video which is geared very much to longline systems but its more information.

Friday, August 14, 2009


If you have been thinking about raising your own oysters, now is the time to get out there and do it. We have everything you need to get started.
Oyster gardening is really easy...
OYSTER SEED + WATER + TIME = Oyster Roast, Oyster Rockefeller, Oyster Stew, Oysters on the half shell.....

There are gardeners who handle their oysters every week, and there are some who handle their oysters once a summer. They both end up with oysters they can eat or plant on their own oyster reef they have created.
Oyster gardening is fun, good for the environment, and something you can do year-round in the Chesapeake Bay. Below are some of the items that we offer to help you raise oysters in just about every water condition found around the Bay.

This is the most common piece of oyster gardening of equipment. They come in a range of sizes: 2x3, 2x6, and 2x8. Any size variation with vinyl coated wire and pvc pipe for floatation with top for access to the oysters is going to be called a Taylor Float.
We offer a built 2x3 Taylor Float for $100 or you can buy the wire from us and build your own.

Flip floats are oyster floats that can be flipped over from one side to the other to help control fouling on the piece of equipment and make cleaning the oysters a little easier as well.
We offer two varieties: the Float Cage and the Bag Float.
The Float Cage is made of 1x1 wire and PVC floatation and can either hold a growout bag for small oysters or larger oysters directly and it costs $75. There is also a version where the floats are attached with bungee on the side or on the top and for removal in winter to avoid ice, that model is $100.
 The Bag Float takes one of our growout bags and adds UV resistant floats to the side. These floats give it rigidity because they are attached along the whole edge of the bag, so the bag doesn't fold under the weight of the oysters as is often the experience when using soda bottles. Bag Floats built cost $30.

If you prefer going to the bottom to grow your oysters, the two high one wide (2H1W) cage or the 2x3 single tray are ideal. They are both inexpensive, $35 for the 2H1W and $45 for the 2x3 single.
Why go to the bottom? To avoid rough water, out of sight out of mind from all prying eyes or sticky fingers (yes it happens), or you just enjoy going in the water to work your oysters. In 1'-4' of water, you are still in the upper water column where all of the good food is located for fast oyster growth.


Bags are the cheapest way to go for growing oysters.  We sell them  for $10/bag, they are 900g bags so heavy weight for better longevity vs the 500 or 700g bags.They come in a variety of sizes; 4mm, 6mm, 9mm, 13mm, being the most common. The smaller the mesh size, the smaller the seed can go in them. The bags can be used in conjunction with most of the other equipment listed above or you can attach some soda bottles to them to make floats or create a rack on the bottom from rebar of pvc pipe for them to sit on.


Just let us know what you want as far as triploids(non-reproductive) or diploids(reproducers) and then sizes. Triploids tend to grow faster. Usually you get what we have available but if you let us know early enough we take orders.
Seed is sold by the thousand counts and is priced anywhere from $25/1000 to $75/1000 based on size.
We do sell it by the scoop (so smaller quantities) at our gardener shows and events as well.



Monday, June 1, 2009

Virginia Oyster Aquaculture: Sea Grant Article

Spat-on shell and the future of Virginia oyster aquaculture
By Phil Marsosudiro with additional reporting by Margaret Pizer
Virginia Marine Resource BulletinSpring 2009, Vol. 41, No. 1

It looks like a dirty baseball sitting under wet paper towels in a cooler, but it’s actually a bundle of live oyster larvae, some 20 million of them, purchased for $4,000. Michael Congrove—Remote Setting Extension Agent for the Virginia Seafood Council—lifts them out of the cooler and puts them gently into a bucket of clean seawater. He gives them a stir and waits, then pulls a few out and places them under his microscope to check their bellies (dark means they’re well-fed) and to make sure their gills are clear. If the larvae are healthy and they’re treated well for the next eighteen months, there’s a decent chance that they’ll turn into 600 bushels of oysters. Sell them at $25 a bushel, and that’s a $15,000 home run off a $4,000 baseball.
This is the dream of spat-on-shell oyster cultivation.
As aquaculture techniques go, spat-on-shell is not very complicated. You take a 10-foot diameter tank of water, drop in bags of old oyster shells, add a large batch of larvae, and wait a few days. If you’ve done it right, ten or so larvae will have settled and metamorphosed into tiny juvenile oysters (called spat) on each of the old shells, just like they would do in the wild. Then you take the bags of spat-on-shell and place them on leased bottoms in the open water. If all goes well, in about a year-and-a-half you’ll be harvesting full-grown oysters, ready for shucking.
“It’s almost like following a recipe,” says James Wesson, PhD, of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). But he adds that if you want to make a living from it, you need three things: First, you need the proper ingredients; second, you need to work with care and skill; and third, you need an environment that will support your efforts.
The Proper Ingredients Virginia’s first experiments with spat-on-shell date back to the 1980s. But at the time, the pieces weren’t all there to make it work. “Disease was widespread, and we didn’t yet have a broodstock of disease-resistant oysters” that could grow to market size in sufficient quantities to justify the spat-on-shell effort, says Wesson. So Virginia had to put the idea aside while they worked on improving the broodstock.
“First, we’ve developed a disease-resistant oyster,” says Wesson. It isn’t immune to disease, but it can stay healthy long enough to get to market size, and that’s all that is needed. “Second, we’ve learned how to breed triploid oysters—sterile oysters that put all their energy into a fast growout, and none into breeding.” These improvements have put spat-on-shell back on the table and locked in the first key ingredients for a Virginia oyster revival.
“Right now, most of the shucked oysters that we ‘produce’ in Virginia are shipped in from the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere,” says Wesson. They’re a more expensive and less reliable source. For flavor, for predictability, and for profit, “we want to produce oysters that are grown in Virginia, not just shucked in Virginia.”

Mastering the Technique
After Virginia developed better broodstock and a suitable technique for cultivation, the next step was to put spat-on-shell into practice. In 2005, a dozen oyster producers began working with VIMS, VMRC, and other partners to see how spat-on-shell would work for them. After three years of progress, they decided to cross the threshold from pilot projects into independent commercial production.
To help the producers make this transition happen, Virginia’s Fishery Resource Grant Program provided funds for Congrove to work with them intensively for one year. In 2008, Congrove helped each company run several sets of spat-on-shell production—from tank preparation to larvae-setting to planting the spat-on-shell in Virginia waters. With each set, commercial staff acquired more skill and sophistication with the technique, until the end of the year when all of the participating firms were ready to conduct spat-on-shell cultivation without help from Commonwealth staff.
“The collaboration really got us off the ground,” says A.J. Erskine of the Bevans Oyster Company. While he and his peers might have started spat-on-shell by themselves, Erskine says, “Our progress would have been much slower and would have cost much more. Because Virginia backed us up with technical and financial support, the opportunity was a lot more tangible.”
Rufus Ruark Jr. of the Shores and Ruark Seafood Company echoes Erskine’s comment: “We already knew about the technique because it had a long history elsewhere.” But for his own company? “Seeing is believing, and seeing how it did work (not just how it might work) was what everybody learned. I’ve learned a lot about the larval end of it. At first it felt like, ‘just put the larvae in with the shell? That’s not gonna do anything,’ But then we pull our shells up several days later, and lo and behold there’s fifteen oyster on it.”
“Once I see that I can make money off it, I’ll go off on it,” says Ruark. “But the Commonwealth setting us up with the program is a big help—a real deciding factor. And the continuing help that they give us is a big thing.”

Supportive Environment
The final piece of the puzzle for Virginia oyster growers has been a supportive economic and regulatory environment that has helped encourage both small- and large-scale aquaculture efforts.
Although spat-on-shell aquaculture for shucked oysters is new, Virginia has more than a decade of experience in aquaculture for individual oysters that are sold on the half-shell market. Aquaculture for individual oysters is a much more labor-intensive and expensive process than spat-on-shell aquaculture. But the resulting product (which is sold in the shell, unshucked) can be sold for a much higher price.
Annual sales of Virginia-grown aquacultured oysters (half-shell and shucked) increased six-fold over the three-year period from 2005 to 2007. Several large commercial growers got in on the action—either adding aquaculture to shucking houses or starting new commercial aquaculture enterprises. Oyster hatcheries have also opened in several parts of the state, and the expanding Eastern Shore oyster aquaculture landscape now includes a major hatchery.
Oyster growers like Doug McMinn, who founded his Chesapeake Bay Oyster Company in 2003, say the motor behind the success of Virginia oyster aquaculture has been steady growth in the market for Chesapeake Bay oysters, the availability of local shucking houses, and the support of state institutions like VIMS that have helped develop the science to set oyster growers on the right track.
“I think part of why the [aquacultured] clams have done so well and why oyster farming now is doing well is because the state was in at the beginning to help come up with some of the technology but then the guys had to start putting down their own money and putting themselves on the line,” says McMinn. “They’re not going to walk away from the buck that they put down without a fight.”
McMinn thinks Virginia has reached the right public-private balance to foster growth in the oyster industry. “This state has a lot of private individuals who run hatcheries and do a really good job, and they’re willing to increase volume as the demand dictates.”
In addition to hatcheries, shucking houses are an important component of the supportive environment in Virginia. In other East Coast states, many shucking houses went out of business as natural oyster harvests declined in the second half of the twentieth century, but in Virginia, the shucking houses began trucking in oysters from the Gulf Coast and were able to stay afloat.
Now, as aquacultured oysters are on the rise, these shucking houses are a natural place for those oysters to go. “Because we have shucking houses around here, we automatically have another market” for individually grown oysters that might not be suitable for the half-shell market because of their size or quality, says McMinn. Those shucking houses are also a natural market for spat-on-shell oysters from Virginia, and many of them are getting into the spat-on-shell oyster cultivation business themselves.

The Forecast
For all the progress they’ve made thus far, Virginia scientists and oyster producers are far from knowing that spat-on-shell will be a guaranteed success. Disease, pollution, weather-driven changes in salinity, and predation from the cownose ray remain as known risks or wildcards that could derail the potential of spat-on-shell production in Virginia.
Despite the uncertainties, commercial producers remain hopeful. “
We’ve already been working with some of the guys on better systems” for spat-on-shell, says McMinn. “The more we do to farm raise, whether it’s spat-on-shell, whether its cage, whatever you’re doing, it takes pressure off the wild stocks. I think spat-on-shell is going to be a great thing for restoration.”
At Kellum Seafood, Vice President Tommy Kellum says, “at this point, spat-on-shell is producing maybe 10,000 bushels a year for us. It’s certainly in a juvenile stage for us. But given the size of our leased acreage, we could get to a point where fifty to sixty percent of our oyster supply would come from spat-on-shell in five to eight years. With spat-on-shell, I can actually see us generating enough oysters to keep the plant running year round, with 100 people working.”
Rufus Ruark Jr. sums it up. “I think this is something everyone’s gonna be happy with.”

Crediting Oysters for Helping Clean the Bay
The Commonwealth has a strong record of supporting the science and training needed to help oyster growers succeed. In the coming years, Virginia may also have the opportunity to provide incentives for both amateur oyster gardeners and commercial aquaculture operations based on the benefits oysters provide to the environment by filtering and cleaning Chesapeake Bay waters.
One simple incentive would be a tax credit for Virginia residents who grow oysters off of backyard docks or floats. In the 2009 session of the Virginia General Assembly, a bill to establish such a credit was put forward by Senator Ralph S. Northam who represents District Six, including Accomack, Northampton, and Mathews Counties and parts of Virginia Beach and Norfolk.
“If people get involved by putting an oyster float out, the next thing you know they might realize maybe they don’t need as much fertilizer on their lawn,” says Northam, arguing that an awareness of the nitrogen, phosphorous, and other pollutants that oysters help remove from the water would have cascading effects on the behavior of coastal residents. Although the bill had to be withdrawn due to this year’s budget crisis, Northam plans to reintroduce it in the future.
A second incentive would encourage large-scale oyster aquaculture by providing “nutrient credits” to oyster growers based directly on the pounds of nutrients removed from Bay waters.
One way to create monetary value for a credit is through nutrient trading. Nutrient trading is already on the books in Virginia. Passed by the state legislature in 2005 and slated to become mandatory in 2011, the system limits nitrogen and phosphorous output from point sources like wastewater treatment plants. Plants that exceed the limit can buy credits from others whose output is below it.
Point sources can also balance their emissions by buying nutrient offsets from point or non-point sources. The Department of Environmental Quality has approved several types of agricultural offsets. For example, farmers can generate offsets by reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizer or by leaving some of their land untilled.
A team of researchers, including Kurt Stephenson of Virginia Tech, Alex Miller at the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and Bonnie Brown and Colleen Higgins at VCU are researching ways that oyster growers could generate nutrient credits. Oysters remove nutrients from the water by filter feeding. When the oysters are harvested, the nutrients they’ve eaten and incorporated into their tissues are permanently removed from the water. Oysters also accelerate denitrification, which transforms nitrogen into a gas that is biologically unavailable.
Stephenson and Miller say that one major obstacle to incorporating oyster aquaculture into the nutrient trading system is the complicated science required to quantify how much nitrogen oysters remove—which can depend on the size of the oysters, where they are grown, and a variety of other factors. If these issues can be overcome, nutrient credits promise yet another source of support for commercial oyster aquaculture operations. Oyster growers like Jack White, owner of New Point Oyster Company, hope that Virginia will be able to include oysters in its nutrient trading system. “The time is ripe to recognize the role shellfish can play in cleaning up the Bay” and to make that recognition pay for oyster growers, says White.

A Practical Manual
A group of Virginia scientists and seafood companies collaborated to produce “A Practical Manual for Remote Setting in Virginia,” a booklet that outlines a step-by-step process for obtaining oyster larvae, getting them to set on shells, and growing them out to harvestable sizes.
The manual was written by Michael S. Congrove of W.E. Kellum Inc. and the Virginia Seafood Council, Dr. James A. Wesson of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, and Dr. Standish K. Allen Jr. of VIMS with collaboration from ten Virginia seafood companies and funding from the Virginia Fishery Resource Grant Program, which is administered by the VIMS Advisory Services department.
The ten seafood companies that participated in the project are Bevans Oyster Company, Cowart Seafood Corporation, J&W Seafood, Kellum Seafood, Mobjack Bay Seafood, Purcell’s Seafood, Sea Farms, Shore Seafood, Shores and Ruark Seafood, and Terry Brothers.
The manual is available for free online or for $10 in print. Go to or email

To see this article in its entirety click on this link
Sowing The Seeds

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Maryland Opens Door for Shellfish Farming

We have been talking to folks from Maryland for years about doing what we do and only a handful have been able to get into the business because of some carzy laws in their state for leasing. Well, that is all going to change with the passing of the shellfish aquacultural bill as you will read below. So, if you want to grow clams or oysters in Maryland the door has just been opened, get going you still have time to get set up for this season.


Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has signed into law a new ShellfishAquaculture Leasing bill (Senate Bill 271/House Bill 312) that revises leasing laws to make it easier for shellfish growers in the state. The bill stems from a visit the Governor made to shellfish aquaculture businesses last August and is another of Governor O'Malley's "Smart, Green and Growing" initiatives from the 2009 Legislative Assembly. At a press conference held after his visit to Great Eastern Chincoteague Oysters and Gordon's Shellfish, LLC, O'Malley said that he wanted a new aquaculture bill on his desk within 60 days. The State's Aquaculture Coordinating Council was asked to provide direction for the plan. Recommendations provided by that Council led to an administration bill that passed unanimously in both legislative houses this session. It is the first time in 103 years that the leasing laws of Maryland have been changed to encourage industry growth. "Expanding opportunities for shellfish aquaculture in Maryland waters is vital to the health and economic prosperity of the Chesapeake and coastal bays," said Governor O'Malley. "These changes will not only help restore important aquatic populations - like our native oyster - but also create jobs for Maryland's working families. "The new law gets rid of the classification of Natural Oyster Bars that have been off limits to leasing for the last century. They are replaced withPublic Shellfish areas that have been actively used during the past three years. Proponents of the new bill pointed out that most of the historical bars had long died out but that shell to create new oyster growing areas was still there and could be renovated by private industry. The bill should lead to thousands of new acres being available for lease. The bill gets rid of prohibitions on leasing in many county waters, mostly on the Eastern Shore, where oyster growing could be profitable. It continues leasing to residents but for the first time makes them available to nonresidents and corporations. It removes size restrictions on the amount of land that can be leased, and will replace former limits by mandating use and creating production standards that will be regularly reviewed to keep a lease active. Aquaculture Enterprise Zones, new areas that provide locations for surface and water column production, are authorized. These will have the State become the permit holder from federal agencies, subleasing plots to private growers. This will cut down the time consuming process for individuals to obtain permits, help spur private investment in leasing operations, and encourage commercial watermen to transition into aquaculture. Twenty-fivepercent of AEZs will be held for current watermen until 2011, in order to give them a chance to transition to aquaculture. The new bill gets rid of most old laws on shellfish aquaculture enacted during the past century. The Aquaculture Coordinating Council recommended that regulatory authority be granted to agencies for flexibility rather than relying on the passage of laws that had bogged down the previous leasing program. These changes will give commercial waterman, farmers and others the opportunity to farm shellfish, helping to revitalize Maryland's oyster industry and increase oyster and clam populations in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays. This law will help bring Maryland in line with states such as Virginia where the hard clam aquaculture industry is a $50 million business supporting several hundred jobs in mostly rural areas. "Today's bill signing signals the great potential for expanding aquafarming in a way that is smart, green and growing for our environment, our economy,and employment," said Agriculture Secretary Earl F. "Buddy" Hance. "Aquaculture businesses and watermen look forward to the creation of the enterprise zones and opening of bottom leases so that they can get to work farming shellfish in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays and bringing Maryland's outstanding seafood products to market. " The Maryland Department of Agriculture has long supported aquaculture. Their Aquaculture Coordinator chairs the Aquaculture Review Board, formed by the legislative action in 2005 with members of agencies responsible for permitting meeting regularly for ensuring action on applications. The MDA also is home to the Aquaculture Coordinating Council which has created Best Management Practices, helped develop the Aquaculture Enterprise Zone concept, and aided in creating the recommendations that led to this new law.

Don Webster
Regional Extension Specialist
University of Maryland Cooperative Extension
Wye Research & Education Center
Queenstown MD
Work: 410-827-5377x127

I can think of a few more states that may want to follow MD's example...DE,NC..., but we kinda like the fact other states haven't figured it out yet...more oysters and clams for the VA growers to sell.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Quick Lesson in Genetics

There is a lot of talk about the Triploid oyster in the Chesapeake Bay region especially in oyster aquaculture. I have heard some things over the last few years that I just want to try and clear up as well as just throw in my two cents...remember you get what you pay for.


First, what it is not...
This misunderstanding has troubled me the most and I've heard it frequently. The Asian oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis) was required to be studied in a triploidy form so it wouldn't reproduce so we wouldn't end up with a bay full of asian oysters by accident. But somehow the word triploid began to be synonymous with asian oyster...this is not the case... any oyster can be produced in a triploid form. Pretty much every triploid oyster being raised in Virginia today is a triploid C. virginica not C. ariakensis.

Now what it is...
Triploidy, is a form of polyploidy which means having more than two sets of chromosomes. Your average run of the mill organism has two chromosomes or is known as a diploid. You and I are diploid creatures, we have one chromosome from mom and one from dad. In the case of the triploid oyster there are three...tri = three. Polyploidy is a common occurence in nature especially in plants. However, our triploid oysters don't come to us naturally triploid that is something that is worked out in a lab...we talk about this later.

4n + 2n = 3n

4n - TETRAPLOID (4 chromosomes or way to many chromosomes for its own good)
2n - DIPLOID (2 chromosomes...standard issue)
3n - TRIPLOID (one extra set of chromosomes, so three total, so it is infertile or will not/should not reproduce)

Two reasons...
1. Triploids "tend" to grow faster.
2. Triploids "tend" to have good meat content throughout the summer, because they don't become "poor" and that is because they don't spawn. So a triploid should have a meat yield in August similar to Febuary, so more market potential.

This is a little complicated.
ABC (Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center) at VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science) handles the breeding and production of disease resistant lines of oysters; DEBBIEs, CROS breeds, etc... they provide the "brood stock" to hatcheries who spawn them to produce your seed. You pay a royalty fee to VIMS for the use of those lines. However, the head of ABC is also one of the owners of a private company (4c's Breeding Technology Inc.) that has a patent on the triploidy process. You pay a seperate royalty fee for triploidy to the private company. You see this in the price of seed from a hatchery $6/1000 no royalties, $7/1000 disease resitance royalties, $8/1000 disease resitance and triploidy royalties. What occurs is that ABC produces the disease resistant brood stock and then someone at VIMS/4c's produces the tertaploid oysters through the patented process, so VIMS pays a fee to do that I think. Regardless, they produce tertaploids and supply hatcheries with living tetraploid oysters which can be conditioned and used for the production of triploid seed or they produce tetraploid oysters and get the sperm from those oysters and provide that to the hatcheries for the production of triploid oysters. Clear...muddy...check out 4c's website it spells out the whole process...

Ask for it when you place your order with any hatchery, then hurry up and wait...

and wait...

have your delivery date pass and wait...

now begin to sweat and wait...

sweat, wait, and hope some triploid seed comes in...

then do all of that again and start counting the number of weeks of growing time you are losing because you are waiting for that triploid oyster...

now you find out the reason you are waiting is because (anyone of the following have occured) the original tetraploid brood stock was mostly female, the brood stock wouldn't condition, the sperm was no good, the stuff mated but it looks "funky", all of which point back to the production of the tetraploids...

If your lucky some seed comes in, not all that you ordered. Then you hope that the seed that did come in is actually in top notch shape because the hatcheries were having a difficult time producing the triploids and that has to make you question the quality of the genetics...

So we end up short on triploid seed as an industry again and this leads to the VERY FALSE idea that our private hatcheries in Virginia can't handle the demand and that the state should step in and fill the void with its own hatchery, VERY BAD IDEA ...I wonder why they would be pushing for that so hard?

In the mean time you may want to consider looking for some diploid oyster seed. So you won't have the meat yields you might want for summer time (July, August) atleast you'll have some gorgeous oysters to sell a year from now when the market is hot. There is nothing worse than having a good market and running out of oysters because you just didn't have enough to start with, or they are just not big enough because you got them late.

A few of us in the industry have been toying with locally resistant strains of oysters over last several years. VIMS calls this "backyard breeding", we call it not paying a 15% royalty fee on 4 million oysters, its save about $8K. But more than that it has given us some solid gold oysters to work with outside of the triploid.

Final note...
We are not against the triploid C. virginica in any way, it is an awesome oyster when all things come together, what we struggle with are the constant issues with the production of the triploid seed. It is inconsistent, to say the least, and a risky proposal to assume you will be able to get nothing but triploids on your farm. It is wise to always have some other strains of oysters on hand both diploid and triploid just because you never know what mother nature will throw your way.
These struggles in the industry are just growing pains, it is part of the process of becoming bigger than we are, which is a good thing.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


We came up with the QuickTube Sorter in response to the limitations of other tumbling sorters on the market. We basically took all of the things we didn't like and made them better or wished were doable and made them a reality.

The QuickTube Sorter currently costs $12,995
Great price for what you get!
That includes two sorting tubes, one for seed and one for market/sub-market. The tubes have hole sizes 5/8", 7/8" for the seed tube, 1.25", 1.75" for the market/sub-market tube.  We have found these to be the best overall combination for an oyster farm. You can always get more tubes with other size holes, currently the most popular is the small seed tube with 1/4" and 1/2" holes.
Tubes can also be made of stainless steel for increased longevity but they are a lot for pricing.


1.First...and by far foremost, is the ability to switch sorting sizes in a couple of minutes. The mesh style sorters take an hour plus WITH TWO GUYS and are a real pain. Now, with the QuickTube Sorter two guys can change a tube in a matter of minutes.
The video below shows us changing out a tube.

The QuickTube Sorter with it's hood up.

Again, note the motor mount is held in place while the other end is flipped all the way back and out of the way. The spray bar is quickly disconnected as well so it can be removed and placed back inside the next tube.

2.The sorter is hinged on both sides so it can be used from the left or right side depending on your set-up, you just need to reverse the guard and the rotation of the motor which are both easy to do.

3.Round holes instead of square mesh. This gives a better grade than the square hole because square holes have a long side and a short side, round holes measure the same all the way around. The holes are offset in order to maximize the sorting surface area giving a better grade, and round holes can also sort clams.

4.The machine comes equipped with a wash down connection and a spray bar with nozzles. You can hook up a hose from a booster pump or you can run a gas powered pump on it and clean your oysters effectively while they are being graded. In this picture the bar is disconnected from the machine, it has a quick connect fitting for tube changes.

5.The legs are adjustable and the feet pivot so you can change the angle and height of the unit to allow the oysters to roll quicker or slower down the tube and so it can be adjusted to work with other equipment such as a hopper conveyor and/or grading table.

6.The whole unit is made of heavy gauge aluminum so that it is light weight yet strong (a couple of guys can pick one up) and it can endure the harsh marine environment for years of service.
And it fits nicely in a pick-up truck or on a trailer.

7.The unit can be powered by electric or hydraulic. The electric motor (120V) is not variable but we could put a variable speed motor on if desired, its just going to be more expensive. We no longer use the variable speed motors on the tumblers.  Years ago we found the "sweet" spot on our original sorter. So as we set out to make a better product that was reasonably priced we got rid of the variable speed motor and spec'd out a gear motor that had the same torque and rotational speed as our "sweet" spot. We also found that the variable speed or varying flow is most important on one of our  hopper conveyors that would be feeding the QuickTube Sorter.

8.The unit comes with a tray for the front of the machine that can hold a bushel of oysters for manual loading. The tray is bolted on so it can be removed if you decide to upgrade to a hopper feed, which we totally recommend.  However, the most effective and efficient method of feeding a QuickTube Sorter is by one of our two hopper conveyor designs.

9. The shoots the oysters fall into are completely closed so no oysters are lost on the drop and they are attached on an angle to flow better when the machine is in its working position or sloped. Fish totes slide in sideways to catch the oysters that fall through.

10. There is only one seam in each sorting section compared to the three in mesh sorters and the holes cover almost 4' of the tube per grade, both of which mean more sorting area so a better sort.

Its hard to see, but look close and you can see the seam on the back of the tube and how little it interferes with sorting.

At the bottom of the page you will find two videos of the QuickTube Sorter in action, one with seed and one with markets in conjunction with hopper conveyors and sorting conveyors. If you really want to move through a lot of product these conveyors are an ABSOLUTE must. Custom and replacement tubes are also available.
Order for QuickTube shipping out with hopper conveyor and sorting/washing conveyor
Custom tubes being packaged

More custom tubes, these are for an application with wire mesh
but run on the QT... shipped in halves for easier handling 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spat On Shell Harvest 3/18/09

18 months ago these were just specks on old oysters shells, today they are fat 4" to 5" oysters ready to be shucked and sold.

Only took these guys 3 hours to knock out these 60 bushels. They are experienced oyster tongers.

Nice to see a boat loaded with oysters.