Where Have All the New England Oysters Gone?

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Many well-known New England oyster farms are running out of oysters. Prices on most brands are currently above the 90 cent mark, and several are over $1 apiece, formerly a price reserved for Rasperry Points or Kumamotos. Why is this happening?

As it turns out, New England waters and the Gulf of Maine are turning more acidic, which is bad for baby oysters. Virtually all oyster farms in the Northeast buy their seed at 5 millimeters and grow them out to the size of a quarter before putting them in bags in the ocean or rivers to grow to market size.

It is not unusual for a farm to buy 5 million seeds with an expected mortality of 20%, giving them 4 million market size oysters a couple of years later. However, the oceans worldwide absorb two-thirds of the CO2 emitted by cars, trucks, and power plants, thus they are becoming more acidic each year, largely in the Gulf of Maine.

The increased acidity decreases the survivability of baby oysters, and, instead of 80% surviving, now only 30% survive. So that same farm that was expecting 4 million market size oysters now only has 1.5 million available to sell.

This is the third year in a row that this has happened. That is why those farms have fewer oysters. Oyster farms in Canada were not prepared for this, and their inventories are being depleted as well. The good news is that the local farms here have plenty of stock, and their prices average 30 cents less than Northeast oysters.

Prices are subject to change.