How Have Wellfleet’s Wholesale Oyster Prices Changed Over Time?

How have Wellfleet’s wholesale shellfish prices changed over time? What are the trends in for Wellfleet oyster wholesale prices, weights, and value? 

For Quahog prices click here.

COVID is significantly impacting Wellfleet’s shellfish industry. These charts are all based on the statisticians published by the Wellfleet Shellfish Department, which in turn receives their data from the MA DMF. There is a lag in the data, so we will not have good statistics on the impacts of COVID on the shellfish industry until 2021 at the earliest, but it is expected to be significant.

Oysters are sold by the piece. A straight count is not available, so the best we can do is to convert the total weight to the price per piece. The data published by the Wellfleet Shellfish Department includes total weight landed and the value of the catch. The prices per piece assume that oysters are between 71-75g, which equates to 6.05-6.39 oysters per pound. The prices are both in inflation-adjusted dollars (2018) and real dollars. The inflation-adjusted prices are a better measure than those in real USD.

Since 2015 Wellfleet Shellfish Department has heavily quality controlled their data in terms of whether the catch was wild or aquaculture. Before 2015, they are less confident of the distribution between wild vs. cultured. It appears that this introduced an inconsistency in the value landed for wild-caught oysters for 2015. 2008 also seems to be inconsistent.

There is a great deal of variability in the weight of cultured oysters. Cultured oysters include bottom culture, bag grown, triploid, and in recent years petite oysters. A diploid oyster cultured on the bottom will have a similar weight similar to that of a comparable wild oyster when harvested. Bag grown oysters grow at a faster rate than oysters on the bottom, and this results in a thinner shell, so a bag grown oyster can weigh less than a bottom grown oyster. Then there are triploid oysters that grow even faster, a 3″ bag grown triploid oyster can be less than 60% of the weight of a comparable 3″ bottom cultured oyster. The practices of individual aquaculturists have a significate impact on the finished weights of oysters. How often are they tumbling their oysters to produce a deeper cup? When are they harvesting their oysters? Further muddying the waters in recent years is that MA DMF started allowing cultured petite oysters to be sold in the state. A petite oyster is 2 1/2″ as opposed to 3.”

Wild-caught oysters wild-caught must be at least 3″.

Inflation Conversion Factors CPI20052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018
0.7810.8060.8290.8610.8580.8720.8990.9180.9310.9470.9480.960.981

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