About the Industry

About the Industry

Cultivated Oyster Mariculture in the Gulf of Mexico


Hatcheries are oyster breeding operations where adult oysters, or broodstock, spawn to produce millions of eggs. These eggs quickly hatch into free-swimming larvae, which feed on microscopic algae for two to three weeks before attaching to solid particles and transforming to juvenile oysters known as seed. Hatcheries are typically built on land, making them an attractive option for Texans who want to get involved in COM but prefer not to invest in water infrastructure.


Nurseries obtain small seed from hatcheries and raise the young oysters to around 1 inch in length. They then sell the larger seed to farms. Nurseries typically hold the oysters for a short period of time until the seed reaches the client’s preferred size.

Oyster Farms

Officially called permitted commercial mariculture operations (COMPs), oyster farms purchase seed from nurseries and grow the oysters to market size. Once the oysters are at least 2.5 inches long, they may be harvested and sold to restaurants, stores, or dealers, depending on licensing. In Texas, COMPs must practice off-bottom mariculture, growing oysters in cages or baskets where the seed is suspended just below the water’s surface, where food and oxygen concentrations are greatest.

Economic Impact

Oyster farming is booming in the United States, with an economic impact estimated at over $2.2 billion as of 2019. Nationwide, the industry generates over 16,000 direct and indirect jobs, bringing economic opportunity to rural, coastal areas. The NOAA Fisheries of the United States 2019 Report showed that the US aquaculture industry produced 45 million pounds of oysters worth $219 million in 2018, accounting for over half the total revenue of cultured marine species (clams were a distant second at $122 million).