A record number of baby oysters were grown last year at the University of Georgia's nursery on Skidaway Island.
When oyster seeds the size of sand grains permanently attach to a surface, they're called 'spat'. After two months in UGA's Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Shellfish Lab they’re given to farmers who grow them in coastal waters for one year.
"It is a hands-on activity," said Tom Bliss, the Lab's director. "A few times a week you are checking on it. You really are tending to your oysters like a gardener tends to his garden. It's amazing how much time it takes." The hatchery started in 2016 and is the only one in the state. It produced 11 million spat last year — more than current farmers can grow. The state is updating regulations, so more farmers can participate, and the industry can grow.