The oyster is a bivalve mollusc belonging to the Ostreidae family. There are three major species:
Ostrea Edulis (flat oyster) : native to French coastal waters extremely abundant in Roman times, the Romans themselves enjoyed them as a great delicacy. They are still produced but numbers have declined considerably due to parasitic disease. They can mainly be found in Brittany today.
Crassostrea Angulata (Portuguese flat oyster) : species introduced into French waters by mistake at the end of the 19th century. During a storm, a ship carrying Portuguese oysters was forced to dump its load into the Gironde estuary. The species soon acclimatised and began to reproduce in its new environment. Hence the species was farmed in France until the 1970s, when it too was decimated by disease.
Crassostrea Gigas (Japanese Pacific oyster) : also known as a cupped oyster, it is now the most widely cultivated species in France. Following the disappearance of the Portuguese oyster, parent oysters of this species from Japan and Canada were introduced into French waters.
A few other species :
- Virginica (American oyster): USA and Canada
- Margaritacea (or rock oyster) : South Africa and Madagascar (Toliara)
- Rhizophorae: the mangrove oyster
- Sinuata or Luteria: New Zealand