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Winter Oyster Farming: What Happens in the Offseason?

We first introduced you to Tyler Hagenstein of Channel Rock Oysters back in August to highlight National Oyster Day. Tyler is passionate about seeing the Blue Economy (water-based jobs) on Cape Cod grow and become a year-round sustainable way to make a living. Recently we had a chance to catch up with him to discuss how the winter oyster season is going and ask him a few questions about what he can still do to maintain the farm during the cold weather.

Tyler Hagenstein Winter OysteringTyler Hagenstein of Channel Rock Oyster Co.

Winter can be a difficult time for fisherman, as harsh conditions can make it a challenge to perform daily tasks needed to sustain their livelihood. As the ocean waters begin to cool in early December, the plant life that an oyster lives on dies off and the food supply diminishes. Once the ocean waters go below 48 degrees, the oysters will stop eating and go dormant. Those oysters large enough to sell will remain on the farm to be harvested during the winter months. To protect the rest, Tyler will store the undersized oysters and seedlings in a humid-controlled cool environment on shore. They will remain there until spring, when he can get them back out to the farm to continue the development process.

Winter Oyster SpatSmaller oysters and seedlings are kept on shore in the winter

Tyler will also use this time to bring in his gear from the Channel Rock Oyster farm, located in Barnstable Harbor, for seasonal maintenance and storage. If gear is left over the winter, it could be swept off by the ice flows and possibly be lost or cause harm to the surrounding area. With each trip out to harvest oysters for customers, he will take in gear. As he shared, it is a constant cycle. By the time all the gear is in, there is only a brief time of rest before the gear is brought back out and the growing season begins.

Winter Oyster Farming GearOyster growers move their gear into winter storage in preparation for less favorable/predictable weather

Tyler is also involved in his community by serving on the Town of Barnstable Shellfish Committee. This committee, which supports the Marine and Environmental Affairs Department, helps govern the local shellfish resources in the area. Protecting and improving the shellfish industry for the next generation is important to him and a big reason why he is involved.

As we have learned, the work never really ends as an oyster farmer, no matter what the season. We look forward to connecting back up with Tyler in the spring to see how the growing process takes place.

Can you get fresh oysters in the winter? Absolutely. If you have not had a chance to try a Channel Rock Oyster, now is the time as they are available in 12-count bags here.