On the occasion of the Shellfish and Marine Culture Show of Vannes, here is a small overview of the different professions in the shellfish farming industry.
For each day, a profession! During four days we will present a key profession in the shellfish farming industry.
Today the focus is on oyster farming.
Oyster farmers are like farmers of the sea, they are the ones who raise the oysters for 3 to 4 years. It is a job that is punctuated by the seasons according to the life cycle of the oysters. In France, the oyster is cultivated on practically all the coasts of the Channel, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
There are about 4 main seasons in a year:
Summer between June and August is the oyster spawning period.
Thousands of tiny larvas wander through the currents before finding a place to settle and develop. This is the collection time for the oyster farmer. He will set up collectors (Roman tiles, tubes, slate stakes, shells etc.) to allow the larvas to settle. Collection is also carried out in hatcheries.
The oyster larva develops for 4 months between September and December and becomes a spat.
It grows to 200 times its original size. Once the size of 2 to 4 cm has been reached, the oyster farmer detaches the spat from the collector. He will place the oyster in a semi-rearing tank for one to two years. This is called detaching.
Depending on the region, the oyster will grow in the open sea until it reaches maturity (about 3 years).
There are three different farming methods: foreshore, deep water and off-shore. Foreshore farmingis done in pockets on the Channel and Atlantic coasts where there are tides. Deep water farming,where the oysters are sown at the bottom of the sea or suspended on ropes, mainly in the Mediterranean where there is no current. And finally, the off-shore method of farming is done in very deep waters. Some oysters are raised in the open sea for 1 to 2 years and then matured in oyster beds. This is the case for Marennes Oléron oysters. They are moved to plankton-rich clay ponds to complete their growth. These mature oysters are recognisable by their beautiful green-blue colour, the natural colour of the algae present in the ponds: the blue navicula.
Once the oysters have developed after about 3 years of farming, the oyster farmer will sort each oyster. Sorting is done by weight (not size!). The oyster farmer then places the oysters in baskets or crates for distribution.
The year of an oyster farmer is therefore divided between his shed (or farmhouse) and his parks, where he carefully looks after his entire farm. He is usually equipped with an oilskin or chest waders to face the elements against all odds.