KENT NARROWS — Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center and Harris Seafood have come to an agreement that Harris will harvest limited qualities from oyster beds growing off the center’s shoreline near Kent Narrows and process those oysters for sale with CBEC receiving a large percentage of the proceeds to go toward funding of educational and preservation programs. The arrangement was announced at a special buffet dinner to unveil their new Pearly Girl brand oysters at Harris Crab House Thursday evening, Oct. 3.
CBEC Restoration Manager and Assistant Director Vicki Paulas and Harris Seafood proprietor Jason Ruth both spoke with excitement about the venture to the 70 people who turned out for the dinner. They said it is a very unusual venture between a conservation organization like CBEC and a seafood harvesting business like Harris Seafood, one of the last seafood packing houses on the Chesapeake Bay.
Ruth said, “I’m an environmentalist. We need the oysters to keep the Bay alive and keep the Bay progressing back to what it once was. We, at Harris Seafood, are not about over-harvesting oyster beds. We have partnered with CBEC for many years providing educational tours of our facility and explaining what we do here.”
He added, “If you want the Pearly Girl brand, you’ll have to call us in advance. We have to have time to harvest the oysters at that location and process them for sale. We do have product right now.”
The official oyster harvesting season in Maryland begins Oct. 1 and runs through March 31 each year.
Paulas said, “The harvest will be limited, especially for our first year, even though we do have a year-round oyster harvesting permit from the state. It will take time to develop the area off our shoreline to be more fully harvested in future years.
“Did you know that one oyster can filter 50 gallons of water per day? Fill a bath tub with Bay water and stick an oyster in for 24 hours. We hope to generate a few thousands dollars in product sales. We hope we will lead by example and show how an environmental nonprofit can work with the seafood industry and local waterman for the greater good — and we all have to support each other in order to make any kind of progress in restoring the Bay and preserving a way of life and heritage on the Eastern Shore.”
She added, “Next year, we’ll add the sale of items with our Pearly Girl logo on T-shirts, caps and other merchandise. All of these things will help support our educational programs and mission at CBEC. We plan to hold an annual oyster buffet dinner like the one we had for this event. The public is welcome to join us.”
Those who attended did receive a Pearly Girl Oysters T-shirt and gift oyster shucking knife.
The buffet dinner included oysters fixed four different ways: a delicious creamy oyster stew, baked oysters with three cheeses and bacon bits on the half shell, raw oysters on the half shell prepared by master shuckers Beverly Estep and Harris Executive Chef Mike Roberts, and classic fried oysters. The oysters were accompanied by a generous slice of prime rib and all the fixings of salad, mashed potatoes, steamed string beans and carrots, seafood tortellini, and a wide assortment of pies.
Live music was provided by Justin Ryan of Denton, who sang and played guitar.