Oyster Farmer Film Goes Back to the Source With Showing at Tuckerton Seaport

Sep 13, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson Filmmaker Brendan Walsh of Oak Leaf Media in his Little Egg Harbor studio.

Come meet the makers of “The Oyster Farmers” documentary film, screening at the Tuckerton Seaport on Sept. 22. The event starts at 5 p.m. with a question and answer segment and a raw oyster and clam bar plus Jetty Sessions beer and Zero Schucks Pinelands Brewery suds served on the outside deck of the Union Market and Gallery.

One of the subjects of the film, Dale Parsons Jr. of Parsons Seafood in Tuckerton, will participate in a shucking contest with area shuckers and will teach the proper way to open an oyster and clam.

The film starts at 8 p.m. outside on the Seaport stage, so bring your own chairs. Tickets are $20, available at Jettylife.com and the Seaport.

Brendan Walsh of Oak Leaf Media, production partner, filmmaker and editor, said making the documentary was a chance to reawaken his love of the Barnegat Bay area. Walsh grew up on Dock Road in Parkertown and now lives in Tuckerton. Although he’s traveled to some far-flung areas of the world with his film company (Uganda, Brazil, Spain and Haiti), filming “The Oyster Farmers” “peeled back the haze of growing up in the area and opened up a whole new dimension for me.”

“The Oyster Farmers” begins back in the days when Tuckerton was called Clamtown. “Barnegat Bay was historically the epicenter of wild oysters on the whole eastern seaboard, and were a staple diet of both the rich and the poor. There were oyster carts selling oysters in New York City like there are hotdog carts. But now they provide less that 1 percent of the oyster trade,” said Walsh.

In 1909, there were hundreds of Tuckerton, New Gretna and Parkertown men working to harvest wild oysters and plant them on their oyster beds to fatten. But starting in the 1920s, the harvest was impacted by overfishing, pollution and oyster diseases.

The documentary is about the efforts of a dozen oyster farmers, most notably Parsons, to bring the oyster back to prominence in Barnegat Bay.

Parsons is a fifth generation oyster/clam and seafood purveyor of Parson’s Seafood, established in 1909, and also the visionary behind the Tuckerton reef project. The reef project, started this spring, is returning conch and clam shells with oyster spat to an area of the bay to start an oyster reef.

He is also an aquaculturalist who ran an oyster and clam hatchery in Tuckerton until Superstorm Sandy destroyed his laboratory. He now buys his spat (baby oysters and clams) from Rutgers and grows them to planting size in his tanks on Great Bay for planting in Barnegat and Great bays.

Angela Anderson of Long Beach Township was the project’s producer and environmental consultant and Corinne Ruff of Surf City directed.

“Angela and Corinne had hours of filming they had done but lost during Sandy so we were called in,” said Walsh. “We were starting from scratch, but when they said the first shoot was going to be on Parkertown Dock Road, where I grew up, I couldn’t say no.”

The showing at the Tuckerton Seaport on Friday, Sept. 22 is particularly apt since so much of the film is about local history right on Tuckerton Creek. “To my knowledge it’s the first movie of its kind to be made here,” noted Walsh. “This is our home and our first feature film.”  —P.J.






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