Jay Baker approached Bob Boeri, his office mate and fishing buddy with a modest proposal. “Bob,” he said, “I could do with a bit of fresh air. I think we should try our hand at oyster farming.”

Jay was creeping up on his 13th year of commuting to his Boston-based office and needed some natural light.   Bob had already suffered through any number of Jay’s “great ideas,” but as a fisheries biologist with a passion for all things marine, this one took hold.  Bob’s son Alex was a key piece of the puzzle.   Alex was about to graduate with a degree in Marine Biology and like most marine biology majors, didn’t have any concrete plans after college.

A partnership was born

Office fatigue and parental angst aren’t our only reasons for getting into the oyster business though.  As biologists and environmental planners, we know that oyster farming is a truly sustainable (green) industry that is being promoted all over the east coast as a way to improve the clarity of coastal waterways.  Oysters are filter feeders, pumping as much as four gallons of seawater over their gills each hour, straining and eating the tiny plants (phytoplankton) contained in the water column.  In many areas, including our own Great Bay system, the water is over-enriched with nutrients (from sources like lawn fertilizer) that cause dense blooms of phytoplankton.  This is great for shellfish and the people who love them, but not so good for other marine plants (like seagrasses) that need light from the sun.   In general, too much phytoplankton means less habitat for plants, finfish, and other marine life.   For these nutrient rich waterways, oyster farming is a win-win; a sustainable industry that helps to clear the waters and protect the diverse habitats that make Great Bay such an important estuary.

Oyster farming These methods can affect the size and shape of an oyster, and, even to the oyster novice, the taste. In any case, oyster farming is great for the environment, so eat more oysters!