RIDGE, Md. (WJZ) — With many restaurants remaining closed, or only offering takeout, the oyster industry has taken a huge hit.

At the True Chesapeake Oyster Farm in southern Maryland, business isn’t just down: it’s almost nonexistent.

Manager and oyster farmer Ethan Davis said it wouldn’t be uncommon to sell between 15,000 and 30,000 oysters a week, but with COVID-19, the demand simply isn’t there.

“People enjoy (oysters) when they are raw, and sitting at a table with a nice glass of beer, and yeah it’s not very takeout-friendly,” said Davis.

The good news is oysters can stay in the water until they’re once again in demand, but the bad news is they keep growing.

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Davis said their ideal oysters range from two and a half to four inches, and they can usually keep them that size for three to four months.

“Once they stay in the water any longer than that they end up getting a little bigger than 4 inches and that can definitely affect how many we sell,” Davis said.

It’s not that they’re bad, they’re just big and usually require restaurants to get creative in the way they prepare them.

Large oysters are good for frying, baking, grilling or even in soup.

Davis said even though they’re not selling, the oysters still need to be cared for, on top of that it’s growing season.

This time of year can keep five employees busy for eight to nine hours a day, but due to the lack of sales, most of True Chesapeake Oyster Farm employees have been furloughed.

“We need to pick the oysters up, run them, sort them, clean them and then deploy them,” Davis said, “It normally takes three guys on the boat, and two guys on the pier and now it’s just me.”

It’s hard work, all to ensure this Maryland delicacy is on the menu when business is back to normal.

If you’re in the mood for oysters now, you can pre-order them, and pick them up in Baltimore.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Sean Streicher

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