Katama Bay is located on the Eastern end of Martha’s Vineyard (N 41.35/W 70.48), and is exceptional as an estuary as it is located seven miles from the mainland. At any rate…Katama Bay is fed by the North Atlantic from the (relatively) well-protected northern end of the bay, while (until very recently) a narrow spit of land known as Norton Point Beach has provided a thin, protective ribbon from the high seas of which batter the southern shore.
Over the winter of 2006-2007, a nor’easter blew through, and the resulting erosion caused a breach in this barrier beach, thereby allowing water to flow more or less unabated through the Bay. This breaching is quite natural, and though there is no set schedule dictating when a breach will occur (or how long it will remain open), this flushing of the bay cleanses and restores equilibrium to the ecosystem.
Now then…The Katama Bay oysters…It is not by pure coincidence we haven’t seen the Katamas all summer. Nuts and bolts, demand is so high by the local chefs looking to satiate the summertime tourist’s collective hungers, all product that is harvested stays on-island. Now that the “season” is more or less over, supply has loosened up.
The Katamas are very much what I would consider to be a “boutique” fishery. In the eyes of the Katama Bay oyster fishery, quality trumps quantity every time…And we like that. The oysters are grown out and harvested in an entirely environmentally sustainable fashion that utilizes a series of racks and trays which are moored to the floor of the bay. It bears mention that the oysters never come in contact with the floor of the bay, and as such, are exceptionally clean.
The shells of the Katama Bays are just as strong as they are clean. Splintering and chipping are minimal. Less splintering, less shell fragments in the meats, and little to no rinsing will be required by the raw bar staff. Less rinsing: More ocean flavor: Happier diners. Meats of the Katama Bays are full, and possess a high degree of salinity (Thank you, Norton Point Beach breach!). Size wise, the Katama Bays are coming in at roughly three-and-a-half inches in length, and the shells are deeply cupped.