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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Circle C Oyster Ranch

The Circle C Oyster Ranch is nestled in the heart of St. Mary's County on St. Jerome Creek.

Utilizing 200 ft of dock and 3.2 acres of surface water, Circle C raises oysters from free swimming, microscopic larvae all the way to market size. The dock supports 14 upwellers for seed production as well as a lift system for boat access and oyster harvest. The ranch currently boasts a shed for storage, office space and an indoor workshop. With 10 acres of land and 65 acres of water bottom rights, Circle C fully plans to expand further. In fact, there are several projects currently in the works. A hatchery to produce our own oyster larvae, giving us full control of all stages of our Lineback©'s life.

The Floating Oyster ReefTM

At the heart of Circle C's operation is the Floating Oyster ReefTM. Designed by CEO/President Richard Pelz, it is at the forefront of oyster aquaculture technology. One reef contains approximately 1000-1500 oysters and holds them just inches below the surface of the creek. 1000 oyster in only 30 square feet compares wonderfully to the Chesapeake average of 12 1/2 oysters per acre in the wild! Why does this system work? It works because it puts the oysters where the food is. Oysters eat algae that grows in Bay waters. The lions share of fresh algae, and the oxygen it produces, is found in the first 12-18 inches of water. By placing the oysters in that zone of food and oxygen, even a wild oyster's growth rate is bound to increase. In fact, Circle C has shown that wild oysters will as much as double their growth by placing them in our system. This is incredible enough, but when you couple the Floating Oyster ReefTM with Circle C's specially bred Lineback© oyster, the results are phenomenal. We have actually grown oysters from larvae to 4" in only 9 months and to 6" monsters in only 18!

The Oyster

The Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) has long been considered to be the Chesapeake Bay's claim to fame and is a true delicacy in most cultures.

Over the last 15 years, Circle C has been perfecting its strain of eastern oyster, the Lineback©. We took several different genetic lines of oysters, chosen for growth rate, disease resistance and shape, and bred them into our original line. All things said and done, there is about 40 years of selective breeding behind our oyster! The result is the Lineback© oyster, the best oyster in the Bay. The Lineback© has been bred to have an extremely thin shell, to grow extremely fast, and to have a deep cup to it. The oyster grows so fast in fact, that when used in conjunction with the Floating Oyster ReefTM and our seed production system, we can take it from spawn to market in under 18 months! That is less than half the time for a wild oyster to get that big. In fact, every year we get more and more that grow to over five inches! A wild oyster would need five or six years to do that. The deep cup and extra thin shell means a higher meat to shell ratio. In fact, our oysters average about 32% more meat than the same size wild oyster. The thin shell also makes Circle C's Lineback© super easy to open. Instead of shucking the old fashioned way, just take a pair of scissors, snip off the bill, stick in a kitchen knife and presto, half shell oyster!

Good stuff!!!

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