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Page 30 The Mariner June 2, 2006

Marinetics Grows it’s Own Sweet Oysters


The employees at Marinetics nurture each oyster at their aquaculture facility as one of their own children. ”We call them our kids,” joked Bob Maze, Marinetics vice president. “You can’t always eat your young and get away with it.” If the oysters were in fact Marinetics’ “kids,” they would be spoiled rotten. Unlike wild oysters That grow along the Choptank River naturally, Marinetics oysters undergo cleaning, shaping and nurturing processes that result in cleaner, shapelier shells, deep cups and a sweet-tasting oyster, which they have branded “Choptank Sweets.” Depending on the weather, Choptank Sweets are ready for the market in about 18 months at the Marinetics facilities in Castle Haven outside Cambridge, said Marinetics manager Kevin McClarren. The company is vertically integrated, meaning each oyster is grown and produced by Marinetics with no suppliers. The company even produces its own algae to feed to young oyster larvae, with different strains of algae fed to the oysters at different stages of their lives. Marinetics is the only privately-owned oyster hatchery in
the state, Maze said. Maze’s wife, Laurie Landeau, serves as president.
The oysters are created in a hatchery that used to be a chicken house a mile or so from the dock where they’re finally harvested from the Bay. Marinetics does seasonal spawning in tubs filled with filtered Bay water. When they reach the right maturity level, they are transported to bunk-bed-type holding tubs in another room, where they are fed and kept in warm water to spawn. Because they’re grown in near-laboratory conditions, Mannetics can control diseases that would normally affect the oysters if they were in the Bay.
When healthy oysters are given a consistent, ample food supply, they store glycogen instead of fat, Maze said. That makes Marinetics oysters sweeter than wild ones. After the oysters reach a certain maturity level, they’re placed in floats that Marinetics custom-designs out of conjoined PVC pipes and a special type of netting. The floats are placed in the Choptank River and can hold 600 to 700 mature oysters, Maze said. They’re also ideal homes for the oysters as they grow to maturity because they float near the surface of the water, providing the oysters with plankton and sunlight. The oysters are produced and harvested year~round. The oysters are taken out of the floats and placed in a tumbler around three to four times a season, McClarren said, where they are power-washed and tumbled to mold their shells into a perfect shape. Nothing goes to waste, either — even the “runts” are given special care in a boathouse off the dock until they reach the right size to be put back into floats. Clustered oysters that aren’t good for market sale are sold to people who use them to restore oyster beds in other parts of the Bay. Marinetics produced 33 million spat at its facility last year, Maze said. Marinetics is Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certified, which covers businesses involved in the production, packaging, distribution and retailing of food products to ensure their safety. The Maryland Department of the Environment samples Marinetics’
spat before they continue to grow and Marinetics inspects its own water supply once a week. Marinetics recently received a lease for the acreage needed to grow • the oysters along 300 feet off a dock in Castle Haven. They also received a permit to sell the oysters to local restaurants and others. McClarren said they already have made deliveries to Bistro in St. Michaels and the Tilghman Island Inn. Besides producing oysters for restaurants, Marinetics also is giving back to the environment in a big way. In growing its oysters in the Bay waters, Marinetics is also adding the Bay’s oyster population. Tens of millions of larvae will eventually spread out and grow in the Bay as a result of the close-knit male and female Marinetics oysters spawning in the water from the floats along Castle Bay, Maze said. That means more natural filters in the Bay and more oysters to add to the total population. “Being biologists, we have the environment in mind all the time,” Maze said.

For more information on Choptank Sweets, call Marinetics at 410-221-7900 or e-mail [email protected]
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