Oyster farming growing with rising tide of demand

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
23 May 2005, at 1:00am

MAINE - Draped in morning fog, the water near the mouth of the Cousins River was dark and quiet last week as Eric Horne and Valy Steverlynck motored upstream in their 22-foot work skiff. Below the surface, invisible to boaters, tens of thousands of oysters rested on the estuary floor. Horne and Steverlynck knew where to find these shellfish beds. Oyster farmers, they've spent three years raising these bivalves, since each was no bigger than a grain of sand. Later in the week, full-grown oysters from the Cousins River were on the menu at the oyster bar inside Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington, D.C., a landmark watering hole near the White House. A plate of a dozen oysters sells for $20.95. Oyster farming isn't a get-rich-quick scheme, however. It takes three years for oysters to mature. Horne and Steverlynck's company, Flying Point Oysters, made a small profit last year, but owes $60,000 in business start-up costs. The firm hopes to erase that debt, by capitalizing on an unsated appetite for oysters at some of North America's premier restaurants and seafood sellers.