- Associated Press - Saturday, August 16, 2014


Louisiana’s fragile coastal wetlands constitute an oyster heaven of sorts. Oysters do best in water with the moderate salinity found in many of the state’s coastal lakes, bays and marshes. The sultry Gulf Coast climate also plays a big part, providing a long growing season. Oysters need salt in their water. They do best in brackish water and can live in seawater, but fresh water will kill them.


The five species of oysters cultivated in the United States include two native species: Eastern oysters and tiny, strongly flavored Olympia oysters native to the Pacific Northwest. Pacific oysters, bigger than the Eastern species, were introduced from Asia in the early 1900s. Kumamoto oysters came from Japan in 1947. European flats were first brought to Maine for aquaculture in the 1950s.


Oysters are filter-feeders, so the water where they grow affects their taste. Because of this, Eastern oysters often are sold under local names: Blue Points from Long Island, New York; Wellfleets from Boston, Chincoteague from the Chesapeake Bay, and Galveston from Texas. Malpeque and Beausoleil oysters are from Nova Scotia.


Oyster spat generally start out as males. After the first or second spawning, some change to female. Some females can switch back to males. Mass spawning is triggered by water temperature.


Louisiana’s commercial harvest season on public oyster beds runs from October through April, though owners of private oyster grounds can harvest whenever they want. The closed months are the spawning season. Oysters become small and flabby after spawning, which costs Eastern oysters up to 40 percent of their body mass. Pacific oysters lose more than half their weight to spawning, making them less attractive to diners in the spring and summer.

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