Oyster Fishing in Mexico
Bucerias is located on the west coast of Mexico, a few miles north of Puerto Vallarta, on the famous Banderas Bay (bay of winds), in the state of Nayarit.
It is a typical Mexican town, with hardworking Mexican people, such as the oyster fishermen who provide local seafood for not only the locals, but the thousands of tourists that visit this area every year.
The name Bucerias means “a place for divers”, as the majority of fishermen fished for oysters. They dove both into shallow and sometimes deeper waters of the bay with just a few tools.
What is an Oyster?
“Oyster” is the common name for a salt water family of bivalve molluscs.
Oysters from the ostreoidea family are eaten by humans, and are considered a delicacy. They can be eaten raw or cooked. These are not the pearl oysters.
Fishing for oysters in Mexico
The oyster fishermen of Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico, are very busy from January through April months.
They harvest these molluscs by entering Banderas Bay waters from the beach. They probably are wearing a wet suit. They are carrying a tire tube with a net around it. The might have flippers, a mask, gloves, water slippers, and a snorkel. They definitely have a long metal pipe like a straight crowbar. That’s for breaking the oysters away from whatever they are attached to on the ocean floor, and for cracking them open once they have them out of the water.
Oyster Fishing Top 10 Rules
- Obey the law … Each state i.e. Nayarit, where Bucerias is, will have a designated time of year when oyster fishing can take place. It will depend on the number of oysters in the sea, the conditions of the tides and the beach, and the number of fishermen seeking a license.
- Best time of year … Oysters are at their best during the cooler months of the year. An easy way to remember when to fish for oysters, is to make sure the month has an “r” in its name.
- Weather conditions … Most communities will tell their fishermen not to harvest or fish for oysters after a rain. The contaminants in the soil after a rain, run into the sea and are consumed by the oysters. These oysters then pass on that pollution to people who eat them.
- Low tide … The high tide time of day usually has larger waves which make it difficult for the fishermen to find the oysters, and then free them up to catch them.
- Site inspection … Make sure the area where you are going to fish has no dead things in it, or garbage. Make sure the water is relatively clean and it smells ok. Even though the site might be ok for oyster fishing, it still might not be a good spot for you or the oysters.
- No boat necessary … Some oyster fishermen will use a flat bottom boat for the harvest, but all you really need is footwear, a tube, a net, and a steel bar. Since you probably won’t have to dive down any more than 3 meters, and since you might encounter “gumbo mud”, or sharp shells and a reef, the shoes are a very good idea.
- Collecting oysters … If you’re diving for the oysters like the men in Bucerias (note: ladies can do it too but usually don’t), the wetsuit might be weighted, and the steel bar will help you sink and stay down for at least a minute to collect the oysters. Many times, oysters are calcified to something like a reef, and so the steel bar comes in handy. Some oyster fishermen use a dredge and a boat.
- Break the clusters … Oysters usually hang out in groups like people. Leave the dead oysters and baby oysters (small ones) on the sea floor and just bring up the large ones.
- Collect them in a bucket or a net … The Bucerias fishermen attach a net to an inner tube and as they bring them to the surface, they place them in the centre of the tube and in the net. That way the oysters stay moist and fresh longer.
- Keep to the limits … Local rules will indicated to you how many you can harvest according to weight, number, or volume. Don’t be greedy!
From the Ocean to the Table
Once you leave the ocean with your oysters, keep them wet and cool until you’re ready to eat them. Yes they can be refrigerated. Yes, they can be frozen.
If you’re going to cook them, make sure you follow the recipe closely. Sometimes you might get salmonella from eating any kind of fish. That has a lot to do with the bacteria that grows on animals once they die, and aren’t kept on ice.
Bucerias Mexico Oyster Festival
Thousands of fresh “shucked” oysters on the half shell are served at the oyster festival in April, down at the beach near Bucerias centro. The oysters are cheap, or free and delicious!
The local people are proud of their heritage of diving for oysters and clams in Banderas Bay, so the oyster celebration every year is a big party. Music, dancing, fireworks, families, visitors, contests, and oysters for all!