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Year of the Oyster
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December 3, 2012
Earlier this year the governors of Maryland and Virginia proclaimed a banner year for blue crabs. But they were wrong. With drought and then a hurricane, it turns out it’s the year of the oyster. WYPR’s Pamela D’Angelo reports.
Pamela D’Angelo: Every morning at Purcell’s Seafood in Reedville, Virginia, a dozen oyster shuckers line a stainless steel counter where they crack open thousands of oysters that are processed then shipped to restaurants and retailers. Owner Rich Harding says this year both wild and farmed oysters are taking off.
Rich Harding: I raise oysters out here and the oysters grew phenomenal this year. You could almost watch them grow.
D’Angelo: Like Harding, Jim Wesson who manages wild oysters for Virginia, says he’s seeing lots of baby oysters that benefited from just the right weather.
Jim Wesson: We had a good year this year. If you remember we had that warm winter and we had a spring that would be warm and cool and warm and cool. If they get a good start and we’re still seeing them right now it means they’ve gotten through the worse time for predators when they were little and they’re going into the winter at a bigger size, it looks good on that account.
D’Angelo: If all goes well, next year could bring in big harvests for Virginia. Rumors that Maryland is having a banner year this season were confirmed by the state’s shellfish manager Mike Naylor.
Mike Naylor: We’re having remarkable harvests of oysters in Maryland this year. Anecdotally we’re being told that watermen are harvesting twice if not three times the number of oysters they harvested last year. It’s to the point where we’re running out of oyster tags that are used to tag the bushels as they harvest and we’re scrambling to order more.
D’Angelo: Crabbing has not been so good to watermen this year. Both Virginia and Maryland extended the crabbing season to make up for time lost during Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent Nor’Easter But many watermen have already packed up their crab gear and switched to oystering. Dean Dise is a waterman from Tangier Island.
Dean Dise: This year it’s got colder, the water temperature’s got colder than last year. There ain’t been many crabs it’s been slow. (I believe they voted last night they were going to extend the crabbing season, did they?) Yeah, til the middle of December. (Are you going to keep going?) No, I’m going to oyster.
D’Angelo: Maryland fisheries manager Lynn Fegley is waiting for harvest numbers and this winter’s annual crab survey to begin figure out what happened to all those baby crabs.
Lynn Fegley: Really what we’ve been hearing is that’s it’s been a pretty variable year. It’s been pretty patchy in terms how good the harvests have been this year. Normally, we have that large number of young crabs in the bay at the beginning of the year and we certainly didn’t see the advent of those like we thought we would in the harvest but we’ll know more when the harvest numbers come in.
D’Angelo: For Dean Dise and other watermen, science is no predictor for Mother Nature.
Dise: And like that Smith Islander said. I asked him about a crab, he said the only thing he knows about a crab is they come and go and bite you, you know…That’s the only thing you can really say, that they come and go and they bite, so.
D’Angelo: For WYPR this is Pamela D’Angelo in Reedville, Virginia
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