Oysters rely on the ebb and flow of the tide for flavor. Their survival is determined by their farmers, deeply rooted in their tradition and connection to the water. In the nineteenth century, oysters were a plentiful source of protein that was as popular with the affluent as with the everyman in Manhattan’s oyster saloons. When the city grew, the oysters began to disappear, and so did their place as potent water filters in rivers, bays, and estuaries. Through the grit and dedication of oyster farmers, modern aquaculture technology, and efforts to better understand their ecological value, oyster beds are being protected while once depleted regions are being restored.
For this documentary, produced by Professors Maria Luskay and Lou Guarneri, and Pace University’s documentary film team, PaceDocs, filmmakers spoke with scientists, historians, shellfish constables, and farmers across the flats of Cape Cod, the shores of Connecticut’s Long Island Sound, and the urban waterways of New York City. In the process, they uncover what gives an oyster its merroir, or taste that is unique to its region; how communities are utilizing oysters to improve local water conditions and counteract the effects of human activity; and the plight of the oyster farmer braving unpredictable circumstances to lead a life by the tides.