Our North Haven oysters (Crassostrea virginica) are sourced through a family fishery located on North Haven Island, Maine (N 44.09.33/W 68.53.30). This tiny island hamlet is home to some 355 year-round residents (population swells considerably during the summer months, with an influx of folks from “away”), which neatly converts to a sparse 33 individuals per square mile.
You’ll find a certain degree of self-reliance and frugality in such island communities that is truly remarkable in this day and age of convenience and instant gratification. The old New England adage “Use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without.” is gospel in island communities. Fail to observe this Cardinal Rule, and you’ll quickly learn exactly how difficult island life can be. If you ever have the opportunity to visit one of the many Maine islands, I would highly encourage you do so. It is an eye opening experience. But I digress…
In 1995 there was talk of restocking the old North Haven smelt runs (see below for unrelated smelt info). The biologist who was retained to assess the feasibility of this restoration project remarked in passing that Heidi’s Pond (where Mill Stream empties into the northern end of Pulpit Harbor) appeared to be an ideal setting for oyster farming.
Enter Adam Campbell. This seemingly casual observation piqued Mr. Campbell’s interest. After doing his due diligence on procuring an aquaculture lease from the State of Maine, and learning a little about oyster farming, Adam treated himself to a 36th Birthday present quite unlike any other. This gift came in the form of 300,000 oyster seeds from a Maine hatchery, and consequently, the birth of North Haven Shellfish Company.
The North Haven oysters are started out in upwellers which provide a ceaseless supply of phytoplankton to the hungry little oysters. The oysters remain in the upwellers from April through August, and then they are then transferred into ADPI (hard plastic mesh) bags and floated from August to October. When the oysters are removed from the ADPI bags, they are then hand planted around the pond. The bottom structure of Heidi’s Pond is mostly hard clay, with ledge jutting into it.
The North Havens remain on the bed of the pond for three to four years for the remainder of their grow-out. All North Havens are exclusively diver harvested, this method is not only ecologically sound, but also affords Adam and company the opportunity to be very pro-active as far as quality control. Oysters that have not yet attained market size will be brought ashore during harvest, manicured (chipped/flaked), and returned to the beds for their grow-out.
The North Haven oysters are available 12 months a year, but are recommended late fall trough early summer. Size wise, the North Havens are approximately three to four inches in diameter. Shell shape is typically round, with a well-defined cup. Salinity is constant and high during the winter months, in the summer there will be some fluctuation depending on how much rain fall the island receives.