FORT MORGAN, Ala. (WBRC) - After a series of hurricanes and the Gulf Oil Spill, the Oyster Industry on The Alabama Gulf Coast was practically threatened with extinction but with obstacles comes innovation, in this case, Oyster Ranching.
Which brings us to Navy Cove Oysters. They’re grown and harvested in an area near Fort Morgan which has been safe harbor for ships going all the way back to Pirate Times. Now it provides a prime environment for growing and harvesting oysters.
“We’re very close to the bay, have very high salt water most of the year-round but still benefit from the nutrients that come down bay that make the phytoplankton so abundant that the oysters grow very quickly here. They’re very fat, succulent, sweet and with a hint of salt most of the year,” says Dr. Chuck Wilson, a retired LSU Marine Biologist and one of the partners in Navy Cove Oysters.
One of Dr. Wilson’s graduate students at LSU was Dr. John Supan, now another partner in Navy Cove. Finding the spot for the ranch was almost by chance.
“Chuck and I were looking out over this little cove and at the time I was teaching people how to do this in Louisiana. And he said. ‘You think that’d be any good?’ I said. ‘Let’s put our wading shoes on and go check’ And it was perfect; hard sandy bottom, waist deep, close to the salty water two miles away. It’s a perfect site.”
It’s also a perfect place for sharing the bounty of the sea, which is what Eric Bradley, the third partner in The Navy Cove Adventure, enjoys most. He’s the manager of Sassy Bass Restaurant, located just across Fort Morgan Road from the ranch.
“We’re fortunate enough to be taking seafood and oysters out of this body of water and I’m shucking them and serving them to customers in less than twenty-four hours,” says Eric. He adds, “I’ve probably heard a hundred times in the past three weeks, ‘This is the best oyster I’ve ever had in my life.’”
Not only is oyster ranching good for the consumer, there are other important benefits.
As Dr. Wilson notes, “It has become a way to replace the natural harvest because that’s depressed but it also has the ability to produce a very high quality product on a regular basis while continuing to filter the bay, which is good, continuing to provide habitat for the nursery for the critters that depend on them; shrimp, crabs and oysters.”
Good for the environment, the industry and for oyster lovers.
“We’re in Fort Morgan, Alabama and I’ve got the best oyster in the world.”