Brains, Brine and Brawn
Florida’s oysters certainly seem to be endangered these days. From right here at the edge of the salt marsh, let’s take a closer look.
Apalachicola Bay in Free Fall
The oyster fishery in Apalachicola Bay, once one of the most productive in the country, has suffered catastrophic die-offs over the last decade. But unlike what the headlines have shouted, the Bay not die because of any ONE thing. Its death was due to a thousand things. Changes in the Apalachicola River’s water quantity and chemistry, resource mismanagement in the wake of the BP Oil Spill, and global sea level rise should be mentioned, but there are many more.
Poor Water Quality
Oyster Beds throughout the Florida have suffered from poor water quality for decades. As the State of Florida added more and more residents - making ever larger cities, pollution, runoff and disposal of wastewater effluent have all taken their toll on water quality in our coastal waters. Florida continues to suffer throughout the State with poor water quality as it copes with population increases.
Finding the Right Place
Finding the right pollution-free places to grow and harvest high quality oysters is no longer easy in Florida, but Oyster Boss has managed to put down our tent pegs in two very special places: we are harvesting wild oysters on the western coast of north-central Florida, north of Crystal River in Levy County, and we are farming oysters in a little estuary named Alligator Harbor in Franklin County.
Farmed from Alligator Harbor in Franklin County
The famous Apalachicola Bay is located in Franklin County, Florida. So is the completely unknown tiny estuary of Alligator Harbor. The harbor is formed by a spit of land called Alligator Point. It has one small opening direct to the Gulf of Mexico and NO sources of fresh water. Its oysters are sweet, clean and briny. With salinities of 30 parts per thousand on average, it creates a buttery, mild and very salty oyster. We call these oysters Alligator Harbor ALL STARS.
Wild from Florida’s Levy County
Oyster Boss introduced a wild oyster product to our pipeline in 2019. We branded it our Wet Net Florida Selects. It is truly an astoundingly fabulous oyster. In the year since its introduction, our customers have marveled at its consistently briny, smooth flavor. It is large and features a tremendous amount of shell. One hundred count bags routinely weigh over 35 lbs. It is an oyster that we are truly proud of. We bring it through the same processes that we use to clean, sort and evaluate our farmed products.
The amounts of elbow grease that Oyster Boss has used since opening our doors in 2016 as we invest in these areas on behalf of Oyster lovers from all over would amaze you. Rain or shine, warm or cold, our crews, led by Oyster Bossman, Reid Tilley, are either working their oyster tongs or working our floating oyster cages.
The Oyster Boss
When he was just a toddler, I will never forget hearing the first real word Reid ever spoke. It came blurting out as he stood looking through the plate glass of the French doors in our home in Florida’s rural Panhandle. He turned to me and exclaimed “OUT!” And from that day over twenty years ago, to today, nothing has changed – he is never IN, rather, he is always OUT! It has always been so for this young man, Reid, who grew up on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and in the adjacent piney woods. For his entire life, he has busily availed himself of Florida’s rich, diverse ecology, whether in the woods or on the water.
He caught wind of Florida’s budding aquaculture industry while set to enter college, and immediately diverted his studies and devotion to shellfish aquaculture. And now, returning to the roots of his rural ancestors, The Oyster Bossman has gone back to farming, but with a twist: he is farming in the sea.
Grab an Oyster Boss oyster while you also grab something to drink! As you work your way through a platter of our salty All Stars or Selects, our briny goodness is going to make you very thirsty!