Oysters have traditionally been cultured on the bottom just like a wild oyster. Bottom culture is placing the oysters on the bottom of the oyster lease or placing oyster shells on the bottom of the lease to catch wild oyster spate. Off bottom culture has become popular in the Aquaculture industry in North Carolina over the past 10 years. So what is off bottom culture?
Off bottom culture simply means the oysters are grown off the bottom of the river floor. There are many different methods of off bottom culture but I (Tyler Chadwick) want to focus on the type and gear we use.
We use a system called Zapco oyster bags to grow all our oysters. This system has floating mesh bags that hold the oysters 6-8” below the surface in the water column. To have a general idea, the water column is measured from the bottom surface of the body of water to the top surface of the body of water.
Why did we pick this type of culture? Every oyster lease is different, so what works for us might not work for another oyster farmer. This gear holds the oysters in the best part of the water column. In the first 6-8 inches of the water column is the best area for food to grow for the oysters. With growing them in this part of the water column it reduces the risk of some bottom-dwelling diseases. A oyster that’s happy, has a large amount of food to eat and has room to grow is a good tasting oyster!