Starting Chebeague Island Oyster Company

A story by Caitlin Gerber from 2018

Working the upweller

Chebeague Island Oyster Company (CIO) consists of four island residents and was started in 2013. Our first sales were in 2015. In early summer the aquaculture company grows their baby oysters (‘seed’) in a floating upweller until they are large enough to move to a less than one acre lease off of Little Chebeague in Casco Bay. There, they are grown in plastic mesh bags in cages that sit at the bottom of the intertidal zone until they are large enough to sell (3-4 years).

In the winter the oysters are moved to deeper waters. CIO started by growing 30,000 seed and now purchases over 600,000 seed per year. CIO’s mission includes supporting other small oyster farmers on Chebeague by sharing advice and equipment.

The farming of oysters does not require any sort of feed nor medication, they live off of plankton already in the water column. Oysters are effective filter feeders and oyster farms help increase water quality by fighting nitrogen pollution in the Bay. CIO is proud to contribute to a healthy marine ecosystem and hopes to provide various forms of employment for Chebeaguers in the years to come.

Oyster cages in Casco Bay

Chebeague Island crew

Farmed oysters