Cape Cod Oyster Company buys historic shellfish grant

Filed Under: Other News

Cape Cod Oyster Company, the largest single-source oyster producer in Massachusetts, has purchased Atlantic Oyster LLC’s 23-acre aquaculture grant, which was established in 1877 in East Falmouth and believed to be the oldest of its kind in Massachusetts.
The oysters harvested from this grant will be called Washburn Island Oysters. The oysters are grown in Waquoit Bay, a protected salt pond directly fed by the Atlantic Ocean’s Vineyard Sound and the fresh water of the Moonakiss and Little Rivers.  Three quarters of the water in Waquoit Bay cycles from Vineyard Sound daily. As a result, Washburn Island Oysters are characterized by a fresh-tasting, briny flavor and an exceptionally clean finish.
Oysters provided sustenance to the Native American tribes for centuries. When European explorers first arrived on the horizon, they enjoyed seemingly inexhaustible supplies of fresh shellfish found along the shore, making camps wherever they found oysters.
By 1880, oysters were commonly traded on the wharves of Waquoit, a thriving Cape Cod seaport known for its shipbuilding, marketplace and abundant fisheries. But the wild oyster stocks simply couldn’t keep up with insatiable demand from Boston to New York and thus, the early methods of aquaculture began.
Starting in Wellfleet in 1775, shell fishermen began planting Eastern oyster seeds from Chesapeake Bay to replenish their once-teeming oyster beds. In 1877, Massachusetts awarded its first aquaculture grant to grow oysters and quahogs on a 22.8-acre area of Waquoit Bay.
Cape Cod Oyster Company, based in Barnstable, Mass., and founded 1983 by Al Surprenant, manages more than 40 acres of shellfish grants on Cape Cod. The largest single-source oyster producer in Massachusetts, the company distributes oysters to some of the country’s largest restaurant chains and food service distributors year-round in 48 states under the brands of Wianno and Great White Oysters from the company’s large HAACP- and MRAG-certified distribution facility. Affiliated with a shellfish hatchery in Damariscotta, Maine, makes Cape Cod Oyster Co. one of a handful of oyster growers in the U.S, that’s vertically integrated from seed to market oyster. The company is considered a pioneer in oyster, surf clam and scallop aquaculture and currently employs 10 full-time employees and five seasonal employees.
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