THE YEAR OF THE OYSTER (YOTO)
The big year was 2016 but, since “the world is our oyster” on Daufuskie Island, the YOTO celebration here has extended into 2017 including the Daufuskie Oyster Roast, and Daufuskie’s first oyster reef build.
Getting ready for the oyster roast begins in the spring when coastal water temperatures rise and an ancient spawning ritual begins. Fertilization occurs in the open water where the free-floating oyster larvae, which look like specks of black pepper, soon develop a shell and feed on algae, as they drift with the currents and ride the tides. If they are lucky enough not to become fish food by the third week, they attach themselves to a hard surface — usually other oysters — where they make their home. This bonding with other oysters is how reefs are formed.
Once attached, oysters cannot relocate. There the oysters grow in place until their life cycle is interrupted – often by predators including crabs, carnivorous snails, sea stars, fish and sting rays and, once a year, for the Daufuskie Oyster Roast.
This year, the oyster roast drew more people than ever. They weren’t there for the music, nor for the jumpy house but for the most tender and delicate of all seafood, the oysters. Mouths watered as oysters were steamed and dumped on tables where hungry oyster-lovers quickly began the shucking task in anticipation of that first incredible bite of succulent oysters picked that very day.
It’s events like the oyster roast that make everyone on Daufuskie aware of the importance of healthy oyster reefs. Oyster reefs keep erosion at bay, improve water quality (a single oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons per day) and provide food and habitat for a diversity of plants and animals, including our oyster-eating residents.
Daufuskie’s First Oyster Reef Build, being coordinated by Jenny Hersch, will take place on April 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Meet at the Haig Point dock at 10:45am.
11:00am - Depart by boat for Bluffton
Projects like Daufuskie’s Oyster Reef Build will restore oyster populations while enhancing habitat for fish, shrimp, and crabs, and improving water quality of the island’s estuarine areas. The YOTO program is a coordinated effort by the Daufuskie Island Conservancy, the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation, the Daufuskie Island Elementary School, the Haig Point Naturalist Program and the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head.