One of the seafood stables that locals and tourists alike have traditionally associated with the Gulf Coast is the oyster.If you’re not from around here and were wondering about the local seafood I’d like to suggest that you try the humble oyster. Alabama is blessed with large oyster beds and a relatively mild winter climate. For those of you that like trivia a fresh shucked oyster is the only animal in North America that is traditionally eaten alive. If you listen closely you can hear it yell, “Help me!!” as you swallow it.In the past the common people looked upon the oyster as an important food source and while the elite considered it a delicacy. Though, there are other reasons that they’re prized. Oysters have, apparently, always been linked with love.Alabama’s oysters usually live in water between eight and 25 feet. Oysters start spawning in the spring when the water temperature rises above a certain level and again in the early fall when it falls below that point. This triggers a chain reaction of spawning, which clouds the water with hundreds of millions of eggs and sperm. Their free-swimming larvae are called spat, which settle on any hard substrate, but prefer oyster shells. Oysters are hermaphrodites, which change sex when there isn’t enough of the opposite sex around to provide for enough spawn. Oysters mature at an early age (one year). A single female oyster produces 10 to 100 million eggs annually. Over time, as the oysters live and die their shells form reefs with many nooks and crannies that have over fifty times the surface area of flat bottom. These oyster reefs provide habitat for a wide range of animals like worms, snails, juvenile crabs and fish.The oysters in Alabama are eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica). Oysters are filter feeders consuming algae and other water borne foods and when they’re feeding can pump up to eight gallons of seawater a day through their bodies. I have read statements that when Alabama’s oyster beds were untouched many years ago the oysters could turnover all the waters of Mobile Bay in about five days.Now with the looming threat of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill’s effects on seafood the oyster’s filtering of seawater may lead to some problems.When and if the oil slick moves into the oysters beds and marshes the oysters will start to filter out particulates and oil droplets giving them an unacceptable hydrocarbon taste. If the shallower beds become coated with oil the oysters could suffocate. If the oil and tar balls get deep into the marshes they would become a source of oil andparticulates for many months potentially leading to prolonged chronic contamination of the oyster beds.Oysters will naturally purge themselves over a period of a few weeks and if the slick can be stopped or minimized the worst effects of the spill can be avoided.Follow this link http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/05/-make-a-mistake-about/ to read more details and also the potential of the dispersant to have harmful effects on oyster eggs and young oysters (spat).
Think Global – Act Local!