Live From Oyster South Pt. 2

Live From Oyster South Pt. 2

Day 2 of the Oyster South Symposium was the final day of presentations and the trade show, but it is also the day of the Shuck and Tell closing ceremonies. Another grey sky day greeted us, but the symposium was still full of oyster enthusiasts and farmers. Day 2’s talks focused more on marketing and the future of oyster farming, including discussion of a new program for Federal Crop Insurance and a panel of chefs discussing “What Chefs Want” when it comes to an oyster. The oyster disco ball also made an appearance, and I was finally able to snap a photo of that beauty!

Disco Oyster Ball
The Famous Oyster Disco Ball! – Thomas Derbes II

Saturday’s talks started with a reflection of what Oyster South is and what it could be. Oyster South is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that strives to connect communities and provide resources to support oyster farmers, cultivate thriving communities, and promote healthy waters (Oyster South’s Mission Statement Here). While South is in its name, the scope of Oyster South has become national with visitors and farmers from both coasts coming to collaborate and share stories of their oyster farms. I was able to talk with farmers from all over the USA, from California, Washington State to New Jersey, North Carolina and even Texas where oyster farming is still in its infancy.

After the reflection, we were treated to two awesome panels, one discussing what chefs look for in an oyster and another on making the most out of social media. Every chef has a different view of what they want in an oyster, but consistency and a certain salty yet umami taste came up as something they strive to serve. Social media also plays a major role in oyster farming and distribution. I remember when I was an oyster farmer, I quickly had to learn how to do social media as this was the best way to advertise and promote your product. Most people have Instagram or Facebook now-a-days, so being able to post your story and availability was always helpful in increasing your following and sales.

oyster extension talk
Talking About What Extension Can Do For You at Oyster South Symposium – Thomas Derbes II

After the lunch break, we had a Three-Minute Tech Talk Session. We heard from graduate students that needed input from the oyster community on their research topics, oyster farm innovators discussing their newest and greatest creations to help oyster farmers, and I was even given the opportunity to talk about what extension can do for oyster farmers. After the tech talks, we heard about the federal crop insurance program for oyster farmers, as well as a great talk from Julie Qiu (a well-known oyster blogger, advocate, writer, and founder of the Oyster Master Guild) on oyster stewardship and how important it is to oyster consumers and the oyster industry. Beth Walton, executive director of Oyster South, closed out the talks with Oyster South Looking Forward, and the future of Oyster South and oyster farming is very, very bright.

Before the Shuck and Tell, I was able to grab a quick “linner” at an incredible restaurant named Cochon. I had previously worked with a chef that came from Cochon, and his stories were the reason I made a reservation. The food in New Orleans is top notch, and Cochon was the cherry on top of a great gastronomy tour.

When it comes to oyster parties, the Shuck and Tell is the ultimate oyster experience. Farmers from all over got together to shuck their product and tell their story of why they oyster farm and the story of the oyster being shucked at the wonderful Southern Food and Beverage Museum (aka SOFAB). I was blessed enough to jump in and help shuck for some passionate oyster farmers and learn more about their farms and history. A relatively new oyster farmer at Salt Revival Oyster Company arranged for a second line to come through SOFAB, and it was an incredible way to cap off a great Oyster South weekend. The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana was there to make sure all shells were recycled and used for future restoration projects.

shucking oysters salt revival oyster co
Shucking With Salt Revival Oyster Company at the Shuck and Tell at SOFAB – Thomas Derbes II

The 2024 Oyster South Symposium was definitely one for the record books. The turnout was fantastic, and the camaraderie and collaboration between oyster farmers, researchers, and enthusiasts was a sight to behold. A major thank you to Bill and Beth Walton for always putting on an incredible symposium, and a big thank you to all the farmers who took time out of their busy schedule to share their oysters and stories. The Oyster South Symposium is an annual event, so keep your eyes peeled for the next symposium. I hope to see you at the next one in 2025!

second line
The Second Line To Close Out Oyster South Symposium – Thomas Derbes II
A Brief Explanation About Triploid Oysters

A Brief Explanation About Triploid Oysters

When you sit down and enjoy some fresh, farmed oysters during the summer, you might notice that the oyster is not watery but yet plump and full of meat, unlike the usual wild oysters. These farmed oysters are very special and are called “triploid oysters.” What makes an oyster a triploid? Well, it all starts in the oyster hatchery and involves using tetraploid male oysters to breed with diploid female “wild” oysters.

Before we dive into triploids, let’s go over some definitions. A diploid organism contains two sets of chromosomes. As humans, we have two sets of chromosomes, and the pair is formed by a chromosome from the mother and a chromosome from the father. Triploid organisms contain three sets of chromosomes and while very rare, triploidy does happen in the wild. Tetraploid organisms have four sets of chromosomes and are usually only formed in a laboratory setting using pressure or other means to cause tetraploidy. When you breed a tetraploid oyster with a diploid oyster, the result is a triploid oyster.

Spawning Chamber
A hatchery worker keeping an eye on spawning chambers with diploid oysters – Thomas Derbes II

Inside of an oyster hatchery, you will see many small breeding chambers for the oysters. When a hatchery decides to spawn oysters, they place a single wild diploid oyster in each chamber. During spawning, the hatchery will introduce a cycle of cold then warm water and this cycle is repeated until a spawn is triggered. Hatchery workers will closely watch the oysters and will shut off the water supply to any oyster that has spawned so they can trap the gametes in the chamber. You can determine the sex of an oyster by watching it spawn; a female oyster “claps” out her eggs while a male opens slightly and releases sperm into the water. When spawning for triploid oysters, the hatchery workers will only obtain the eggs from female diploid oysters and discard any diploid sperm to avoid cross contamination. During the spawn, a worker will strip the sperm from male tetraploid oysters and once all female diploids are done spawning, they will introduce the tetraploid sperm to the diploid eggs. After 30 minutes, fertilization rates are calculated and stocking densities are formed.

Tub of Triploid Oyster Seed
3-month-old triploid seed – Thomas Derbes II

Why Would a Farmer Want to Grow a Triploid Oyster?

There are many benefits for a farmer to raise triploid oysters. First and foremost, triploid oysters are sterile. This is a major benefit for the farmers during the summer months. During the summer, wild diploid oysters spawn, and when they spawn, the meat turns very thin and watery. In the Panhandle of Florida, the harvest of wild oysters is prohibited in the summer and only farmed oysters can be harvested.

Another added benefit is the increased growth rate of a triploid oyster compared to a diploid oyster. As mentioned above, triploid oysters lack the ability to spawn. Since a triploid oyster does not have to spend energy producing gametes, it puts all of its energy into growing its shell and meat. A typical diploid oyster could take more than two years to reach harvest size, where a triploid oyster can reach harvest size within 8 months (commonly 12-24 months but there are usually some fast growers in a batch).

There are more benefits of triploid oysters including selective breeding for disease resistance and environmental sustainability. With the use of triploid oysters for oyster farming, wild stocks go relatively unaffected and help contribute to more sustainable aquaculture practices. I hope this brief explanation of triploid oysters will help you understand more about the somewhat unknown world of oyster aquaculture. With demand for oysters on the rise, triploid oysters hold great promise in meeting the needs of an ever-growing oyster aquaculture industry.

From Seed to Shuck – More Oyster 101

From Seed to Shuck – More Oyster 101

When you hear about oyster farming, you typically hear the word “seed” and how it is highly important to the future of the farm. While it might not be a typical seed that produces agricultural crops like corn, this seed is a living, breathing (albeit in the water) organism that produces a beautiful, cupped oyster. Depending on market size demand and requirements, it could take anywhere from 8 to 24 months to reach “shucking ready” size. Let’s take a dive into the timeline of an oyster, from seed to shuck.

Cooler Full of Seed Headed To Farm
A cooler full of R6 oyster seed headed out to the farm – Grayson Bay Oyster Company

Oyster farmers typically buy seed from an oyster nursery or hatchery, where they carefully spawn male and female oysters together in individual spawning chambers. Depending on the farmer’s needs, they can produce either diploid or triploid oyster larvae (more on triploids next week). These larvae are free-swimming for the first 2-3 weeks of their life until they develop into pediveligers (Oyster 101). Hatcheries will, for lack of better terms, mix the pediveligers with very tiny grains of ground-up oyster shells. These pediveligers will then attach to a single grain and begin to form into a “seed” oyster. Seed costs range and vary from year to year, and this cost is usually one of the biggest financial purchases oyster farmers can make. Seed is sold by size, starting at 6 millimeters (typically called size R6), and by increments of 1,000. Hatcheries and nurseries are located all along the Gulf Coast, but Florida law requires seed put in the Gulf of Mexico waters and estuaries must come from Gulf of Mexico hatcheries, and the same rules apply to Atlantic waters.

Oyster Seed
Oyster Seed (>R16) – Thomas Derbes II

Once purchased, these seed oysters make it to their homes in beautiful nutrient-rich waters and grow at a steady rate, and can reach an overall size of 2 inches in 4 to 9 months. During those months, the seed are filtering gallons of water per oyster per day, helping sequester carbon in their shells and consuming large amounts of plankton and algae that could contribute to the eutrophication of the bays. Oyster farmers will check on the seed almost weekly, changing bag mesh sizes and sorting the seed by size. Farmers will also take this opportunity to check for any oyster predators and swiftly evict them from their all-you-can-eat buffet. Sorting is done by using a “tumbler” that has a long drum with holes of varying sizes. This tumbler also helps clean the oyster and chip away at the lip of an oyster shell, causing the oyster to grow deeper and create a beautiful cup.

Farmed oysters do not have a size limit, but most farmers stick to a 2.5 to 3-inch size oyster. These oysters have filtered over 7,000 gallons of estuary water individually and sequestered a very generous amount of carbon, in the form of calcium carbonite (more here), in their shells in their first year of life. Once deemed ready for harvest, farmers will pull them out of the water and get them quickly in the fridge, following strict biosecurity guidelines and regulations to provide a safe product year-round.

Oysters of varying size
Some oysters are fast growers! These were apart of the same spawn. – Thomas Derbes II

And there you have it, from seed to shuck. With the holidays coming up, and seafood sometimes being a part of the holiday plans, reach out to the local oyster farmers in your area to reserve a dozen or two for your favorite uncle. You can also wow the crowd with this very fancy mignonette recipe below! 

Lemon Champagne Mignonette

Juice From 2 Local Meyer Lemons (They’re in Season!)

1 Shallot Chopped Finely

½ cup Champagne Vinegar

¼ cup Red Vinegar

1 tbsp each of Green and Pink Peppercorns 

24 Local Farm Raised Oysters (For the Environment!) 

1.       In a bowl, add the juice of Meyer lemons and shallots. Let it marinate for 10 minutes.

2.       Add champagne vinegar, red vinegar, and peppercorns to the lemons and shallots.

3.       Chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

4.       Shuck oysters and top with freshly made mignonette. Enjoy!

October Seafood – Flounder

October Seafood – Flounder

For many who grew up in the Pensacola area October meant flounder gigging season.  This once popular past time involved going out at night along the shores of Santa Rosa Sound with flounder lights and gigs seeking a local favorite flounder.  Everyone has their favorite recipe for this fish but in this article, we are going to focus on the fish – maybe something you did not know about it. 

In the northern Gulf of Mexico, flounder are flatfish with the two eyes on the left side of the head.  Locally, flatfish with eyes on the right side are called soles.  We do have native soles, but all species are too small to be a food option.  If you are not familiar with the “two eyes on one side of the head” idea, yes – flounder hatch from the egg looking like a normal fish, an eye on each side of the head.  But earlier in development one eye slides across to the other side.  This is a weird transformation and there are probably videos online, so you see how this happens – check them out.  The reason for this transformation is to improve depth perception.  Eyes close together give the animal binocular vision.  Binocular vision does not have a wide viewing range, can basically see what is in front of it but not so much what is behind it, but it does give the animal good depth perception, it can tell how far away the prey actually is, and this is important when hunting. 

Once the eyes have shifted to the left side of the head, flounders lose the pigments on the side without eyes, which becomes white, and the fish lays on its side – white side down.  The cells on the “eye side” have chromatophores that allow the fish to change color to match the sand on the bottom.  Another important feature of being a successful hunter.  Most of know they will bury themselves in this sand as well.  With their binocular vision, camouflaged body, and sharp teeth, they lie in wait to ambush predators. 

You may also be surprised at how many different kinds of flounder are found in the northern Gulf of Mexico.  There are 21 species listed, and they range in size from the small Spiny Flounder which can reach an average length of 3 inches, to the Southern Flounder which attains a length of 3 feet.  The Gulf flounder and Southern flounder are two species that are popular seafood targets, but any decent sized flounder will do. 

Flounder are found in a variety of habitats ranging from shallow seagrass beds nearshore, near structure just offshore, to artificial reefs and the base of bridges, to depths of 1200 feet in the Gulf of Mexico.  Many species spend the warmer months in the estuaries moving offshore when the weather cools down to spawn.  Hard northerners can trigger a mass migration and a great time for commercial and recreational fishermen alike.    

It is flounder season.  Whether you prefer to catch your own or buy from the local seafood market I think will enjoy one of the variety of ways to prepare this fish. 

A flounder scurrying across the seafoor. Photo: NOAA
Farmed Oysters Never Go Out Of Style

Farmed Oysters Never Go Out Of Style

Growing up in the South, I was exposed to many “Old Wives’ Tales,” ranging from not cleaning your house or clothes on New Year’s Day to the one that everyone, including the northern states, knows, “don’t consume oysters in months without an R.”  While most “tales” are full of superstition, the “R” tale was one of biosecurity, and was mainly truthful until two new types of “R” came about; Regulations and Refrigeration. The tale came about due to the rise in food poisonings from shellfish in the warmer summer months that do not contain a “R,” such as June and July. The rise in food poisoning came about from the practices used by the oyster “tongers” at the time. Commercial harvest of wild oysters is a very labor-intensive job that requires long days on the water and constant tonging, measuring, and sorting of oysters as they come off the bottom. During the summer, the oysters would sit on the deck of the boat for hours in the heat, causing microorganisms and bacteria to flourish inside the closed oyster.  Bacteria, like Vibrio, would replicate to harmful levels inside of the oysters and when consumed by a human, could cause life-threatening illnesses.

That was then, and this is now. While the consumption of wild Florida oysters during the summer is not allowed (closed harvest season for wild oysters during the summer in Florida), you can still find oysters from all over the US, and farmed oysters from Florida are still allowed to be consumed during the summer. Biosecurity is a major factor involving food production and aquaculture, and without biosecurity, the consumption of Florida-farmed oysters would be prohibited. Oyster farmers in Florida must follow a very rigorous biosecurity plan that includes State-issued harvest times, water-to-refrigeration requirements, reporting of harvest and planting, and twice-daily temperature monitoring requirements. The regulations for harvest times and refrigeration requirements have scientific backing, showing a statistical difference in Vibrio concentrations between properly handled oysters and neglected oysters, with properly handled oysters having little to no concentrations of Vibrio. For instance, during the summer months, oyster farmers must have oysters harvested and in the cooler before 11am and down to 45°F within 2 hours of storing in cooler.  

Boat Full of Harvest Oysters
A farmer returns early morning from the lease with harvest oysters covered by burlap. This keeps the oysters “cool.” (Photo by: Thomas Derbes)

While there is an increased concentration of harmful bacteria during these warmer months, properly cared-for oysters help limit the growth and proliferation of the bacteria. Another myth is that Vibrio doesn’t exist in cold, winter waters. Vibrio can exist year-round, and people with health risks, including immune-suppressed patients and those with diabetes, should exercise extreme caution when consuming raw seafood. When purchasing seafood for personal consumption, make sure to bring a cooler with ice and place your seafood above the ice, making sure to not allow any fresh water to touch the seafood. When storing seafood at home, make sure they are in a container that can breathe, and cover with a moist paper towel to keep their gills wet. Oysters are typically good for 10-14 days after the harvest date, so make sure you check the tags and consume within time.

Next summer, when you see farmed oysters on the menu, remember the new R’s and order a couple dozen for the table. The need for support from your local oyster farmer is most needed during those months without R, so slurp them down all summer and thank your local oystermen and women!

Oyster with French Mignonette Sauce
Locally Farmed Oyster with French Mignonette (Photo by: Kelly Derbes)

Easy French Mignonette Recipe

Recipe for 2doz Oysters

¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar

¼ cup Champagne Vinegar

1 tablespoon of Finely Chopped Shallot

1 teaspoon of Fresh Crushed Black Pepper

Juice of ½ Lemon

Combine all ingredients together. Spoon over shucked, chilled raw oysters.



October is National Seafood Month and we are celebrating all month long! There’s no better time than now to #CelebrateSeafood. Adding seafood to your meals (at least twice a week for the amazing health benefits, according to the experts) can be exciting and fun! There are so many flavorful recipes, simple cooking methods, and fast meals so you can spend more time with your family. Simple seafood recipes are our specialty and they can be yours, too! We guarantee these simple seafood recipes and tips will help you step up your seafood game.

Here are the top three reasons you should step up your seafood game:

Live longer: Eating fish literally saves lives – eating seafood two to three times per week reduces the risk of death from any health-related cause. Plus, seafood has essential omega-3s.

Seafood is a “protein with benefits”: It’s among the highest-quality proteins and offers many additional health benefits. It can reduce your risk of heart disease, improve how you feel during pregnancy, help your child develop a healthy brain and eyes, and improve memory and sharpness in older adults.

Seafood is delicious, versatile, budget-friendly, and fast: From delicate, mild flounder to flavorful salmon, seafood can please any palate. Fresh, seasonal catches are easy on the wallet as are frozen and canned options. From start to finish, you can get fish or shellfish on the dinner table in 15 minutes or less.

Did you know 7 out of 10 deaths in the U.S. are preventable through nutrition and lifestyle changes, like adding omega-3s to your diet? Low seafood intake contributes to 55,000 deaths each year, making seafood deficiency a leading dietary contributor to preventable death in the U.S.

Hungry for more? Take the pledge to #CelebrateSeafood all summer long and follow us on social media for tips, tricks, recipes and more!

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Florida bay scallops and linguini.