We start on Tomales Bay, a narrow inlet of water separating the Point Reyes Peninsula from the Marin County mainland. In 1983, two marine biologists set out to make invertebrates their life with a five acre shellfish lease on Tomales Bay. Today, with John Finger and Terry Sawyer at the helm, Hog Island Oyster Company has 160 acres of land, nearly two hundred employees at three restaurants (in San Francisco, Napa, and Marshall), and a shellfish nursery and forthcoming hatchery in Humboldt Bay, CA.
Hog Island Oyster Co. is a certified producer of sustainable shellfish, and they grow four kinds of oysters: Pacifics, Atlantics, Kumamotos, and European Flat oysters, as well as Mediterranean mussels and Manila clams. Each species of oyster has a different taste, as well as a flavor (called a ‘merroir) that is unique to the area in which they’re grown; in this case, Tomales Bay.
Raising oysters takes care and precision. Individual oyster spat are raised on fragments of shell before being placed in mesh cylinders in the Bay. The rolling effect created by the tides encourages the development of nice deep shells. When the oysters are a little older they are moved to mesh bags in the bay, where they will live for 1-2 years until they are ready for harvest. In that time, they filter up to 50 gallons of seawater a day. Unlike larger operations, Hog Island Oyster Co. hand-sorts the crop of oysters to ensure only the best make it onto your plate.
If all this talk of oysters is starting to sound good, there’s more: this summer, Hog Island Oyster Co. debuted their giveback program “Lets Give a Shuck!” On certain days, 10% of proceeds from all three restaurant locations are donated to different causes around the Bay Area. On October 14th, you’ll get to enjoy some delicious seafood while also supporting The Watershed Project! All proceeds will go to support our native oyster restoration and education program.
At The Watershed Project, we address an important issue for oysters in San Francisco Bay: lack of hard substrate. Hydraulic mining during the gold rush sent a lot of silt to the bay, and by deploying reef balls at Point Pinole we gave our native Olympia oysters some room to grow, which they are already taking advantage of. Additionally, we work with High School students to educate them about the history, ecology and role of oysters in the ecosystem.
On October 14th, vote with your dollar and support sustainable shellfish and native oyster restoration in the Bay Area!