We strongly believe that if we are going to bring the oyster back in Virginia, we must be farmers and not hunter-gatherers. After centuries of over harvesting, habitat destruction, and disease, what little remains of the natural oyster population is simply too fragile to be harvested by the mechanical power dredge. The undiscriminating oyster dredge rakes up every single oyster and animal in its path while destroying the reef in the process. We must do better than that. We view our roles as stewards of the Chesapeake Bay who have been given the incredible opportunity to enjoy the bounty it provides but are charged with the awesome responsibility to preserve its wonders for future generations.
That is why every oyster we harvest is an oyster we have planted in the York River ourselves. These farmed oysters would not exist if it were not for us purchasing the larvae from the hatchery, placing the oysters in the water, and nurturing them through their growth cycle. Nowhere in our process is a dredge used. We place our oysters in floating cages to raise them above the silt so that they may grow and survive. Unfortunately, these oysters would likely suffocate if we placed them directly on the river bottom. The old oyster shell substrate required for our baby oysters to attach themselves as spat have been scooped up already or silted over due to the devastating impact of topsoil erosion caused by centuries of development and poor farming techniques.
While our oysters are growing, they filter enormous quantities of York River water by feeding on phytoplankton and thereby removing excess nutrients from the water. Our oysters are amazing feeding machines which naturally decrease the turbidity of the water. By improving the water clarity, sunlight eventually is able to penetrate and reach the seafloor. Sub aquatic grasses begin to re-grow and can carry out photosynthesis. The newly formed grasses and oyster reefs provide crucial nursery habitat for fish, crabs, and countless marine organisms. The grasses also provide a vital food source for migrating ducks and waterfowl.
At one time, the black duck was the second most prevalent bird in North America and the Chesapeake Bay was its prime migratory habitat. The sub-aquatic meadows of the bay provided a nearly endless supply of food. However, the demise of the oyster led to today’s cloudy water, reduced sub aquatic vegetation, and limited food for the geese, turtles, and ducks. Hence the black duck and other waterfowl populations have dramatically declined. Our oyster farm does its small part to bring back these grasses and provide vital habitat for all the fish, crabs, ducks, and geese that have called Anderson’s Neck home for millennia.
But farming oysters is not enough. We want to see restored natural habitat throughout the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. That’s why we contribute 10% of all our profits to protecting and rehabilitating both land and aquatic Chesapeake Bay habitat. Every time you eat an Anderson’s Neck Oyster you are contributing to the preservation and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its keystone species, the oyster.