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Harvesting Alaska: Kachemak Bay Oysters

By Megan Mazurek Photojournalist: Will Mader - 9:29 AM July 3, 2017

 

From farm to table, Kachemak Bay Oysters are a delicacy offered almost year-round in restaurants.

Many of them are grown in Peterson Bay, a cove located on the south shore of Kachemak Bay. It’s cold, clean water is home to hundreds of thousands of oysters. They live at the bottom of buoys, in nets tethered to a long line under water.

“The farm in this case rises and falls with the tide rather than move around,” said Sean Crosby, manager of Kachemak Bay Shellfish Coop.

Crosby is part owner of the Moss Island Oyster Farm. It’s one of 12 active farms in the Kachemak Bay Shellfish Co-op. The farmers in the co-op raise oysters from start to finish.

“Our co-op harvests year-round,” Crosby said. “October, November are the slow months. December is a big month.”

Oysters are not naturally grown in Alaska. The water is too cold for them to spawn; that’s what makes Kachemak oysters sweet and crisp.

“As long as they can’t spawn, they store up their glycogen, makes them a sweeter oyster,” Crosby added.

The co-op will purchase the larvae and grow them until they’re about three millimeters. From there, the oysters will be transferred to a nursery in Halibut Cove where they stay until they’re nine to 12 millimeters; big enough to disperse to farmers in the coops to set in nets.

“There’s obviously a ton of phytoplankton, these are extremely rich waters,” Crosby said. “It’s just really perfect and cold.”

There are a lot of benefits to being a part of the co-op. Members have a full voting share and deliver their product to the co-op on a rotation with the other farms. If the oysters meet the grade, everyone gets the same price and delivers the same quantity.

Marie Bader, the president of the Kachemak Bay Co-op, says this allows the farmers to focus on growing, and the co-op takes care of the sales, packaging and marketing.

Marie and her husband, Ron, started the Moss Island Oyster Farm in the early ’90s shortly after the state OK’d shellfish production. Over the years, they brought in Crosby to take over a portion of the oyster farm.

“The first couple years we put in 200,000 baby oysters,” said Bader. “They grew, they didn’t die. They tasted well and good shelf life.”

Today she enjoys her bounty alongside her children and grandchildren with barbecues on Moss Island’s beach.

“We have five grandchildren and every single on of them are oyster eaters, mussel eaters,” Bader said. “The littlest one up there like to eat raw mussels.”

Enjoying the sweet, crisp Kachemak oyster from her farm to Alaska’s dinner table.

Kachemak Bay Oysters are available at the following restaurants:

Homer

  • Homer Spit Oyster Bar
  • Cafe Cups
  • Fat Olives
  • Fresh Catch
  • Captain Pattie’s Fish House

Soldotna

  • Myke’s Restaurant and Lounge
  • Flats Bistro

Fairbanks

  • Silver Gulch Restaurant

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