There’s a unique entrepreneurial spirit that drives Chesapeake Bay watermen like Hoopers Island Oyster Co. founder Ricky Fitzhugh.
Ricky worked the docks of the family seafood business at age 10. He became a commercial fisherman and went on to launch his own wholesale fish and ice companies.
As wholesaler and independent contractor, he was aware of the bleak outlook for Chesapeake Bay oysters. What was a $50 million industry on the Bay in the late 1800s ($1 billion by today’s valuation) is now 95 percent depleted due to disease and over fishing of brood stock in the wild oyster beds.
With seemingly no solution in sight, he began to explore new opportunities arising around sustainable aquaculture in Maryland and launched our company in 2010.
Combining years of experience on the water with passion and newfound optimism, we began designing our own farming gear and processing equipment. Young oysters were soon growing in onshore tanks and eventually transferred to grow in local waters.
Today, our team of oyster growers, scientists, equipment craftsmen, warehouse and office staff are creating new jobs and economic opportunities while improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Today, the Hoopers Island Oyster Co. envisions a thriving sustainable seafood industry and is establishing a new foundation for the oyster on the Chesapeake and in coastal bays around the world.