Member oyster farm locations along southern Rhode Island's coastline.
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Oysters begin their life as microscopic larvae, eventually growing to “seed” size, as seen here.As oysters outgrow the nursery, they are raised in Vexar® (plastic) mesh bags.As young oysters grow, they get sorted into different mesh bags that vary in mesh opening size. These mesh bags can be stored in metal cages. Larger oysters can be stored in stackable trays or loose on the seabed. Each farm incorporates different  techniques to suit their farm’s unique environment.Stackable trays containing mature oysters.Metal cages are compartmentalized to hold numerous mesh bags.Oysters are constantly handled and sorted, essential to achieving a desired deep shell shape and oysters of the highest quality.Premium Ocean State Oysters: perfect fare for both casual gatherings and “black-tie” events.A freshly-shucked premium Northeast oyster displays a pearly white surface on the inside of the shell.This photograph shows where the adductor muscle was attached to the underside of the top shell. in order to open an oyster, this muscle must be cut free of the shell.Building biodiversity and healthier ecosystems, oyster farms and reef restoration projects provide rich habitat for all kinds of marine life, like this Toad Fish.
Our Rhode Island oyster farmers and the growing sanctuaries that they are creating offer rich habitat for a variety of marine life, which builds healthy biodiversity within our coastal ecosystems.
Oysters and Farming
The Life of a Farm-Raised Oyster

Oysters start out as larvae, so small that they are invisible to the naked eye. In about a year, they can grow to 1 – 1-1/2 inches. They usually reach market size within 18 months to 2 years time. Sometime during July and August for a period of two to three weeks, oysters spawn. The water around them can acquire a milky quality. All of their energies during this time are utilized for reproduction. After August, oysters begin 'fattening-up' for the colder months. Oysters need to take in a lot of food in the late summer and fall in order to survive the winter months.

On an oyster farm, baby oysters need to be handled often, tumbled against one another. The net bags that contain them are shaken regularly. This causes the baby oysters to rub against each other’s shells. The fragile outside edges of the shells is new shell growth. This delicate fringe breaks off during this tumbling process and causes each oyster to grow thicker rather than longer, eventually forming an oyster with a deeper “cup.” Unattended oysters tend to grow longer and flatter, looking more like an elongated potato chip. Around the end of November, the water temperature drops below 50 degrees, so the oysters stop growing for the most part, and put their energies toward surviving the frigid winter months. Early to mid-May, water temperatures warm. Once the water reaches 50 degrees, the growing season begins again.

Oysters are natural filters with the ability to pump as much as 50-60 gallons of water a day. This helps trap nitrogen from the algae they eat and convert it into usable protein and keep RI coastal ecosystems healthy. In addition, oyster farms and the growing sanctuaries that our farmers are building, offer rich habitat for many kinds of marine life. Ecosystems rich in biodiversity help to ensure healthy coastal environments.  

​Oysters: A Protein Rich Food

The average oyster contains close to 2 grams of protein. A serving of 12 oysters contains 21.96 grams of protein, with only about 4 grams of fat. Oysters are low in cholesterol and rich in zinc, iron, calcium, and vitamin A. 

So treat yourself to some farm-fresh oysters. They’re both delicious and nutritious. How many foods can you can that about?