UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant have opened the state’s first oyster hatchery, which is expected to revive the once-thriving oyster industry in Georgia.
The UGA Oyster Hatchery
One of the goals of the UGA Oyster Hatchery is to produce an attractive, easy-to-open single oyster that can be marketed to upscale restaurants.
The UGA oyster hatchery will help establish an oyster aquaculture industry in Georgia, allowing harvesters to farm single oysters that can be sold on the half-shell, a lucrative market fueled by rising restaurant and consumer demand.
Located on Skidaway Island, the hatchery is expected to produce between 5 million and 6 million spat, or baby oysters, per year by 2018. Experts at the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory have calculated that these oysters will be worth an estimated $1.6 million when harvested.
Funded by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program, the hatchery emerged from a collaborative effort between UGA Marine Extension specialists, resource managers with the DNR, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Shellfish Growers Association.
Wild Georgia oysters grow in clumps, due to naturally high recruitment rates, a lack of habitat on which to settle and competition for space.The shells are brittle with sharp edges, yet none of this takes away from the flavor of the meat, often described by locals as sweet and salty with a hint of lemongrass.