Oysters Carolina provides the residents of North Carolina with fresh seafood. The oysters are delivered from farms on
Harkers Island and Cape Lookout. Oysters from the farms have an average salinity of 31 ppt to 33 ppt.
Ryan Bethea came upon an article about oysters when he was still living with his parents. It gave him the idea to make North Carolina better. His idea was environmentally conscious and beneficial for the community.
He got his degree and worked at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. His post-graduate work focused on oyster genetics. He started working for the only oyster hatchery in the region, Millpoint Aquaculture. The hatchery is owned by Jimmy Morris.
Ryan Bethea gained a lease from Morris and began his work in 2015. He focuses more on building a reputation than sales.
While operating on his lease, he would teach middle school in Durham. He now works full-time at his medium-sized farm with about 300,000 oysters in the water.
Since he began his mariculture adventure, he has grown greatly. The industry now sees more availability of oysters from North Carolina in restaurants. There has been a gradual growth in the community as well. He insists on the need to educate people on oysters.
The oysters are harvested and delivered on the same day. Some of the breeds include;
1. Beau Sels
These are known as “Beautiful Salt” in French. At the North Carolina Seafood Festival, this breed was awarded ‘Oyster of the Year’. The oysters measure between 2.5 and 3 inches and sell for $1. Their flavor includes ripe summer melon with cucumber. There is also a crisp finish that is high in salinity. They can be eaten raw.
2. Native Sons
These can be eaten after steaming, grilling or roasting. They are a full-bodied breed and are harvested while large. This breed is grown on farms with low salinity. It is then brought to Oysters Carolina for enhancement. The oysters measure 3.5 to 5 inches and sell for $1. They are very salty, buttery and plump.
3. Sea Monsters
These are also known as Green-Gill Monsters. They are very unique to other oysters on the planet. In winter, blue-green algae blooms in small quantities. The oysters measure 2.5 to 3 inches. They sell for $1 and have a lemongrass flavor profile. The flavoring includes dark, leafy vegetable notes. It also includes a clean brine and citrusy taste at the end.
All the harvested seafood is delivered on the same day. Some of the options found include;
These swim with five pairs of swimming legs. They are found on the front part of their abdomen. They have light gray bodies with a yellow band on the abdomen. There is green coloring on the tail. Shrimp have a short lifespan, of about 2 years. They can reproduce when their length gets to five and a half inches. They are sold at $17.99 per pound.
Like oysters and clams, scallops have two shells. The top shell is brown or reddish pink and the bottom one is cream or white. Female scallops are extremely fertile. Each year, they can produce hundreds of millions of eggs. When they hatch, the larvae settle on the ocean floor after 4 to 6 weeks. They cost $22 per pound.
Just a small part of the crayfish can be eaten. When it is prepared as a soup or bisque, just the tail is served. When boiled, parts like the claw meat may also be eaten. You pull the claws apart to reveal the meat inside. You can also suck on the head. Usually, when boiled, flavor and seasoning collect in the interior parts. These cost $15.99 per pound.
4. Blue Crab
Mature female blue crabs have claws with red tips. The rest have bright blue claws. They have 6 walking legs. They also have rear legs that look like paddles. These are used for swimming. Their lifespan is about 3 or 4 years. As they grow older, they shed their shells. This is known as molting. Females shed their shells when they are ready to mate.
Adults grow to be between 3 and 5 inches. They have a thick white or cream shell. The shells have concentric rings growing outwards. They grow slowly for between 12 and 20 years. Some can live up to 40 years. They survive better in saline waters. One female clam can produce about 5 million eggs when she spawns. They are sold at $12 per dozen.
Many local farmers are involved with Ryan Bethea and his company. These farmers help to provide restaurants in Carolina Beach with fresh seafood on a daily basis. Some of those that help Oysters Carolina harvest the oysters safely are:
• Adam Tyler • Michael Starks • Kyle Frey • Rebekah Williams • Phillip Lannan • David Cerino • Guy Lupton • Chase Sterling • Roy Emerson • Tyler Chadwick • Chris Matteo • James Morris • Ricky Dodson
Numerous events are held at Oysters Carolina. The company organizes some of these events to help educate the community on seafood. They are taught about how oysters are sustainably harvested on Harkers Island. Specific food is served, as the menu is determined by the topic of the event. Some of the events organized by the company are:
• Shrimp Boils • Crawfish Boils • Steamed Oysters
Other events held in restaurants in Carolina Beach and Oysters Carolina include;
• Engagement parties • Fundraisers • Large events that suit more than 200 people
Oysters Carolina is a vision of Ryan Bethea. His idea is to ensure oysters are sustainably harvested on Harkers Island. Many of his customers are restaurants in Carolina Beach that serve Carolina Gold oysters. He has managed to provide North Carolina residents and visitors with fresh oysters, delivered the same day of harvesting.