Oyster Seed & Larvae Hits High Notes
Mother Nature has delivered wonderful conditions in Maryland for growing new oysters in 2020, and the Hoopers Island hatchery is at full capacity with oyster seed and larvae production.
The 26% setting efficiency compares favorably to 18-20% rates in 2019, when heavy rains lowered water quality and salinity and delayed larvae production. As explained by Hatchery Manager Natalie Ruark:
The consistent higher salinity achieved early in 2020 created a less stressful environment with more controlled temperatures for larvae and seed production. It enabled us to have better conditioned brood stock that has resulted in larger spawns, several ‘hot batches,’ and higher success rates.”
Reports from Hoopers larvae-purchasing customers have been overwhelmingly positive, according to Ruark, and both spat on shell and microcultch producers are experiencing similar setting efficiencies.
Team Plans Weekly Spawns
While COVID-19 has disrupted some farms’ production, she said most Hoopers customers know that continued investment in larvae and seed is needed to produce market-sized oysters in the years ahead.
Hoopers’ hatchery team, which includes Allison Fitzhugh, Stephanie Wiegand, and intern Brandon Latham, plans to continue weekly spawns into August to meet growers’ demands as well as reseeding oysters for Hoopers Island’s own leases.
Returning Customers & New Markets Increase Demand
Customer requests for larvae and oyster seed at 1-2mm have dominated orders in 2020 due to the faster turnover rate, according to Natalie. Seed at 4mm is the next most popular size.
Farms in North Carolina and New Jersey – where hatchery options are limited – are producing the greatest sales.
Maryland growers also remain a steady source of business and, farms in South Carolina are a new addition since regulatory changes there now allow out-of-state larvae and seed to support the industry.
Natalie explains why she believes 2020 will be the hatchery’s most successful since opening.
With no breaks in spawning like we experienced last year, our team has executed on a clear-cut plan to maximize production. We’ve done exceptionally well at fielding and trouble-shooting any issues that might arise, and we are on track to exceed all benchmarks from prior years.”
Scenes from a Day at the Hatchery
While no two days are exactly the same at the hatchery, here are a few photos from Thursday, June 24.