The Mystic Oyster Company is deeply rooted in classic New England shellfishing. We have forged a unique marriage of tradition and ingenuity.
Jim grew up in Great South Bay, Long Island, which has as rich of an oyster culture as anywhere. At a young age, he was working on boats clamming and oystering locally. In 1983, he purchased his first boat, the Geo. H. Billo, and worked grounds all over Long Island Sound for the Blue Point Oyster Co., harvesting the iconic Blue Point oyster. There, he worked along side Karen Rivera and Norm Bloom.
Jim departed Blue Point's company in 1989 to work on his own, harvesting and relaying clams from the waters of New York City. After a wild ride of productivity and treasure trove of stories, Jim returned to work for the Blue Point Oyster Co. for a while longer.
Upon closure of the Blue Point Oyster Co., Jim and Karen formed Aeros Aquaculture Co., the hatchery in Shirley, NY. Karen eventually moved the operation to Southold, NY, to the facility that produces seed oysters for us today. In 1994 Jim relocated to Niantic, CT, and found the ideal ground for oystering in the Mystic River. The rest is history.
Today, we harvest two brands of oysters. The hatchery cultured Mystic oyster and the wild Ram Island oyster. Although they are grown within a half of a mile apart, there are some subtle flavor difference and major differences in appearances.
The Mystic oysters start their journey in Southhold, NY, at Karen Rivera's hatchery. The hatchery process starts in the early new year, synthesizing an ideal microenvironment for the cream-of-the-crop hand-picked oysters to reproduce. After a lot of high-level lab work, "baby" oysters are cultivated and by mid-summer are sent to our facility in Noank. We use seed management techniques to grow our oysters to a size where most natural predators can't consume them. Once large enough, the oysters are planted directly on the bottom.
Our farming practices produce a pretty unique product because the animals live in their natural habitat on the bottom but because they are cultured in lab, they have more uniformity in shell shape. The oysters being on the bottom allows them to tumble naturally, giving the oysters a much heartier, thicker shell.
Once the oysters grow large enough to go to market, they are harvested and are put in cages into cold and free-flowing water at the mouth of the Mystic River to depurate. After two weeks, the cages are taken back to our facility. We bag or box our product to order and ship or deliver the day of harvest to ensure the freshest product possible.
The Ram Island oysters are actually wild oysters that originally set upon the banks and flats of the Thames River. The Thames was a highly productive oyster source since the early 1800's. Unfortunately, the wild reserves were depleted and died off in the 1970's due to increase of industry in the river and lack of understanding of the industry on "spat" or larvae oysters (the point before an oyster finds a suitable surface to grow upon and doesn't have the protection of a shell.)
In the mid-2000's, Jim decided to attempt a Thames river oyster revival by planting seed oysters where they once grew. Most of the industry in the river had either seized or had regulations implemented for environmental purposes. Unfortunately, an injury and attention needed elsewhere put the Thames on the back-burner. In 2014, Jim's dream of a productive Thames was realized. The biodiverse river was thriving.
Thames River seed oysters are harvested in conjunction with Norm Bloom and Son and are transplanted to grounds at the mouth of the Mystic River, off of Ram Island. The Ram Island grounds have deep, cold, nutrient-rich water where these wonderful oysters mature to market size.