UGA to Hold Fundraiser at the Coast for State's First Oyster Hatchery

Kelly Simmons

Monday, October 31st, 2016

University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant will host an Oyster Roast for a Reason fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 5, to encourage private support for the university's efforts to rejuvenate the state's once-thriving oyster industry.

The event will feature music by The Accomplices, a popular folk/rock band from Savannah, food created by professional chefs Matthew Roher of Sea Pines Resort and Dusty Grove from Pacci. Beer will be provided by SweetWater Brewing Company. Nonalcoholic drinks also will be available. 

A silent auction will feature great adventures on the Georgia coast, including a two-night stay on Little St. Simons Island, a two-night stay at The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort in St. Simons and a three-course dinner for 10 at The Wyld Dock Bar in Savannah, among many others.

All attendees will leave with a commemorative pint glass and oyster shucker.

UGA launched the oyster hatchery on its Skidaway Island campus last year.  There they spawn baby oysters, or spat, which are given to local aquaculturists with state permits to farm along the Georgia coast. So far, the hatchery has produced 700,000 spat, which have been given to 10 growers. The potential harvest value of those will be between $140,000 and $245,000. 

By 2018, the hatchery is expected to produce between 5 million and 7 million spat per year, with an annual estimated value between $1million and $2 million. 

The goal is to attract a commercial hatchery and businesses related to oyster production to the area, which would provide jobs and greater economic development opportunities on the coast. 

“A lot of people don't know it, but Georgia led the nation in oyster production in the early 1900s. But because of overharvesting and changing consumer demands, that industry dried up with the last of 13 canneries leaving the coast in the 1930s,” said Mark Risse, director of Maine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.  “We hope to be back at the forefront in the oyster industry in a few years, which would help the local economy by providing more aquaculture-related jobs.” 

Oyster production also improves water quality, as oysters filter up to three gallons of water per hour. 

Georgia seafood retailers and wholesalers are eager for the locally-grown oysters. Those sponsoring the fundraiser include the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island, Seabear Oyster Bar in Athens, Sorry Charlie's Oyster Bar in Savannah, and Halperns' Steak and Seafood and Inland Seafood in Atlanta. 

The Oyster Roast for a Reason will take place from 5-8 p.m. on Nov. 5 on the bluff next to the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium. Tickets are $50 each. To purchase tickets, click here.