May 18, 2024

Oyster Prices Down in 2023-24

shellfish harvesting

Message from the Cap’n is a compilation of fishing advice, waterman and weather insights, Chesapeake lore, and ordinary malarkey from the folks who keep their feet wet in the Potomac and St. Mary’s rivers.

This year, high water temperature in the 80’s Fahrenheit along with high salinity (18 psu) over the summer and fall equals higher mortality. And it causes the surviving population of oysters to be poor in quality.

Add to that the oysters this year evidently spawned late (reproduced) and many cannot stand the stress of the climate.

The season opens later now than in the past. “Oyster season in the months with R” used to be the norm, but conservation efforts and disease have dictated some changes to that meme. As a conservation measure, September was dropped from the oyster season decades ago. The oyster season now begins each year October 1. But drought and warm temperatures still prevailed at the start of the 2023-2024 winter season.

Oysters will always bring more money during the holiday markets of Thanksgiving and Christmas. But there are many variables that determine the value of a bushel of oysters. Supply and demand are critical, but other factors are involved as well.

The number of oysters in a bushel impacts the price. The amount of shell, mussels, or sea grapes attached to those oysters also plays a significant role in pricing.

The final determination is the yield of pints per bushel when shucked or opened for market. A bushel that ends up yielding 3 to 4 pints off the knife is worth $35 -$40, whereas a bushel yielding 5 to 6 pints per bushel will average $50 or more.

The Cap’n


The business is very complex and regulated by the whims of nature. The profit margin at times is derived by how much fresh water can be sold with them.

Look closely at the next jar of oysters you buy and see how freely they might be swimming.

Till next time, remember “It’s Our Bay, Let’s Pass It On.”

To learn about tours and trips into the Chesapeake, keep in touch with Fins + Claws on Facebook. Catch up on Messages from the Cap’n Member Page. Please visit Cap’n Jack’s lore and share with your social media sites. Or reach him here: [email protected] or 240-434-1385.

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