CHATHAM – Staff and volunteers from the town's shellfish department braved frigid temperatures last week to make sure oysters grown in the town's upweller survive the winter.
On the shores of Oyster Pond, legal-size oysters were culled from bags containing about 25,000 oysters. About 9,000 were placed in cages in the pond to overwinter, while the remaining oysters were distributed in waterways throughout the town.
High winds later in the week blew some of the cages on shore, according to Shellfish Constable Renee Gagne. The shellfish weren't damaged and the cages were moved into deeper water.
These shellfish were purchased as seed in 2015, said Assistant Shellfish Constable Rachel Hutchinson. They don't stay in the upweller, the town's shellfish grow-out laboratory, very long, said Gagne.
“Oysters grow fast,” she said. After a short time in the upweller, they are placed in floating cages in Stetson Cove. Once they reach three inches, they are broadcast into the wild for harvesting by the town's recreational shellfishermen; Chatham doesn't really have a commercial oyster fishery (the exception being the Chatham Shellfish Company, which maintains a grant in Oyster Pond).
The undersized oysters culled last week, as well as the 150,000 seed oysters purchased earlier this year, will spend the winter in Oyster Pond. In the spring, they'll go back to Stetson Cove, where they will spend the summer growing so they can be released into the wild in the fall.