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Oysters (Eastern)

Crassostrea virginica


  • Oval shaped bivalve with two bumpy, wrinkled shells ranging from white to gray, one flat and the other cupped
  • Internal soft body ranging from gray to tan with a darker outer mantle
  • Inside of shell is typically white with a purple muscle scar


Commonly found up to 3 inches; rarely reaches to 6 inches in FL, but may reach a maximum size of 11 inches in other states.


Found in coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico in depths of 35 feet or shallower, from Canada to Mexico. Oysters flourish in estuaries where nutrient-rich freshwater meets saltwater.

Found typically shallower than 25 feet deep, and in tidal areas.

Grow on rocks, seawalls, dock pilings, or other hard surfaces.


Oysters require a hard substrate to grow and often grow on the top of other oyster shells, forming oyster reefs.

Feed by filtering food (plankton and algae) from the water. When feeding, adult oysters can filter over 50 gallons of water in 1 day given optimal conditions. In the wild, this ranges from 3 to 12 gallons per day.

Adults stay in one place and do not move once settled.

Oysters can make pearls by secreting nacre, the same material that lines the inside of their shell.  If an irritant enters the oyster, nacre is secreted as a defense by encompassing the foreign body. Pearls made by eastern oysters typically serve very little value commercially.


Oysters are protandric animals, meaning they can change from male to female. It is typical for younger oysters to start as male and become female later in life.  Spawning typically occurs when temperatures exceed 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Oysters usually reach maturity in one year but can be reproductively active as early as two months of age.

Additional Information

The bulk of oyster harvesting in Florida occurs along the Gulf coast, primarily in the Big Bend region, as well as in northeast Florida.

Recreational regulations

Eastern Oysters