Oysters are being farmed at several sites in Frenchman Bay.
Oysters are filter feeders and get all of their food from planktonic organisms that they capture by pumping water in through their body, filtering out the planktonic organisms (phytoplankton, zooplankton, and bacteria) as they pass by their gills, and then transporting the captured food to their mouths. Oysters are brought in as seed (very small juvenile oysters) that are bought from one of multiple certified hatcheries in Maine. They are placed in small-mesh bags, which are then often put in lines of cages that are anchored to the bottom and float on the surface. As the oysters grow, they are sorted into lower densities and bags with larger mesh sizes so that water flow is as high as possible. The bags and cages require maintenance, fouling organisms grow on the nets and cages and reduce flow, slowing the growth of the oysters. Some growers have systems where the cages are flipped with one end out of the water, which kills the fouling organisms, while others scrape the organisms to keep the bags as open as possible. In addition, predators such as crabs or starfish can sometimes get into the bags reduce survivorship of the oysters.
Oysters grown in Frenchman Bay are the American Oyster, Crassostera virginica, which is native to Maine.
In the winter, bags of oysters are typically sunk and left in deeper water or on the bottom to avoid freezing temperatures. However, some harvesters, like Michael Briggs in Taunton Bay, continue to harvest through the winter at some of their sites.
Oysters are grown throughout a large portion of the Maine coast, although downeast of Frenchman Bay the water is generally thought to be too cold for good growing conditions.
There are several oyster aquaculture leases in Frenchman Bay, listed on the page of leases. There are currently two commercial operations with standard leases and two additional standard leases pending.
Taunton Bay Oysters. Michael Briggs has had the longest oyster aquaculture operation in Frenchman Bay. In 2019 he held a to expand his lease in Taunton Bay by adding a bottom lease permit that would allow him to harvest oysters over winter.
Bar Harbor Oyster Company. This oyster aquaculture business is run by Joanna and Jesse Fogg. They have a multiple lease sites in upper Frenchman Bay near Thomas Island. They also have a facebook page.
The two pending standard leases are:
Frenchman Bay Oyster Company. Graham Platner, Jock Crothers, and Rob Cushman. This is for an area where they have been harvesting oysters in since 2010 (multiple LPA’s in the area). Application.
Ocean Resouces Inc. David Quinby. This is a site in the Jordan River in Upper Frenchman Bay. Ocean Resources has had an LPA, this is for a larger lease, for oysters and sea urchins. Application.
Springtide Seaweed has also proposed to add oysters to their current standard lease off of Stave Island.
Back to the main Frenchman Bay Partners Aquaculture Page.