Description: Like the Mussel, the Oyster needs no introduction. Heavy, ridged, and often contorted shells harbor possibly the best shellfish on the planet.
Habitat/distribution: Oysters live in salty to brackish waters throughout temperate waters across the world. While the inshore species are those commonly harvested commercially, many other species spend their lives in offshore waters.
Method of harvest: Gulf oysters are for the most part wild, and are harvested by dredges or tongs. The Gulf of Mexico is home to the largest surviving wild oyster reefs in the world. Elsewhere, most oysters are cultivated in some way or another.
Season: All year, though individual reefs and areas are closed seasonally.
Cooking characteristics: It is probably best to eat oysters raw. Barring that, they may be roasted, baked, fried, stewed.
Sustainability: Oysters only benefit their environment. There are no negative drawbacks to large populations of oysters crowding bays. However, past overfishing in some areas, pollution, and indifferent management have all affected the oyster in negative ways. Oysters are considered to be a ‘Best Choice’ in terms of sustainability.
NOTE: ONLY Gulf of Mexico and East Coast oysters may be possessed live in the states of Texas. Live West Coast oysters in their shells are illegal. It is against the law to commercially possess even one LIVE West Coast Oyster in the state of Texas. Restaurants and seafood companies which are found to be in possession face thousands of dollars in fines and even jail time.