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Local Oyster Farms Starting to Recover After Tough Pandemic Year

oyster farming.jpeg
Liz Lerner
File photo from 2018: Craig Poosikian in Eastham

The market for seafood — and especially oysters — suffered during the pandemic because most oysters are served in restaurants. But local oyster farming is starting to recover.

Farmers are finally getting calls from people looking to order, instead of the other way around, when they were trying to find a market for their products at the height of COVID-19, said Josh Reitsma, a fisheries and aquaculture specialist on Cape Cod.

“I think it's important for folks to just know that the oyster supply is safe,” he said, “and it's important to get back to eating those oysters and help these farms recover. They certainly are starting to recover.”

Reitsma works for Cape Cod Cooperative Extension and Woods Hole Sea Grant.

He said oysters, often served at raw bars, are a prime example of a product that wasn’t easy to market when restaurants were allowed takeout only or had restricted capacity.

“There weren't a whole lot of oysters being sold,” he said.

Though demand is back up, he said the farms’ recovery won’t be instantaneous, because some farmers reduced the amount of oyster seed they were buying during the pandemic.

Growing oysters from seed to sale takes 14 to 18 months.