The Beach Angel oyster is a variety of the Pacific oyster cultivated by the Outlandish Shellfish Guild in the Strait of Georgia in British Columbia. Although native to Japan, the Pacific oyster was introduced to North America in the 1920s and is now cultivated around the world using a variety of methods. Its distinctive shell is cup-shaped, giving rise to the name “Pacific cupped oyster.” These hardy shellfish prefer rocky bottoms but can live in a variety of subtidal and intertidal habitats.
The Beach Angel oyster, as its name suggests, is a variety cultivated on rugged beaches between the one and two metre tide height. These oysters take four years to reach a 2.5- to 3-inch size. They create their hard shell from being exposed to the sun, wind and extremes in temperatures as the tide ebbs and floods. The Beach Angel can survive temperatures ranging from -10 to +30 celcius. It has creamy white meat with a firm texture and a robust and briny flavour.
Pacific oysters grow quickly and reproduce rapidly. They first mature and reproduce as males, then later develop into females. Spawning is seasonal and depends on water temperature. Females are very fecund, producing between 50 and 200 million eggs during. Larvae (also known as spat) disperse into the water column and eventually settle on the seafloor where they grow into adults. In proper conditions, these filter-feeders can reach market size in 1.5 to 2.5 years. Most commercial Pacific oysters are cultivated in hatcheries and farms. Shellfish growers typically purchase juvenile oysters or “seed” from hatcheries or collect wild seed from the marine environment. The seed is then taken from the hatchery to a shellfish farm or lease located in a natural marine environment like a bay or inlet. The oysters are grown using a variety of techniques: they can be placed on the seafloor, suspended in mesh bags or trays in the ocean or attached to rope and wooden frames in the intertidal zone. They are harvested when they reach the desired size. Different cultivating methods and the marine environment drastically affect the flavour, texture and appearance of Pacific oysters, allowing shellfish growers to create distinctive regional varieties such as Marina's Top Drawer.
Beach culture consists of rearing and growing shellfish in the intertidal zones along the shore. Beaches are tended like farming plots with debris and rocks often removed. Shellfish growers may also build breakwaters or other structures on the beach to prevent oysters from being washed away. Harvesting is typically done by hand.
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