Skip to content

Shell’em Seafood Delivers Sustainable, High-Quality Shellfish

Ana Shellem’s Shell’em Seafood delivers the best mussels, oysters, clams, and stone crabs to restaurants in the Carolinas in a sustainable, no-waste way. The boutique shell fishing company is based in Wrightsville Beach, NC. It serves some of the area’s most notable restaurants, including Raleigh’s St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar and Charlotte’s Fine & Fettle and Free Range Brewing, a brewery using her oysters to create a beer called Sea of Companions. 

Shellem — who chooses her clients and prices her products — harvests only what each client orders and eliminates the middleman for the most-sustainable process. Restaurants often receive their orders within 24 hours.

Photo Courtesy St. Roch Raleigh 

For Shellem, who spends six days of the week in the water, it’s about having a positive effect on the ocean, her clients, and the customers who enjoy the shellfish.

After spending more than a decade in the restaurant industry — much of it behind the bar in New York City — she realized that having local, fresh options is a luxury. She first started shelling when she met her husband, Jon, and immediately found the process good for her mind and body.

“When we first started dating, that was just what we did,” she said. “We’d go fin fishing or shellfishing. I just loved the marsh, and I could stay out there for hours and hours. It was therapeutic, and then we’d go home and cook dinner together, and that part was romantic.”

Photo Courtesy Shell’em Seafood Co.

As she decided to shift into harvesting, she knew she wanted it to be small-scale and order, to bring that feeling of the marsh and high-quality, locally-collected shellfish to plates. She knew she wanted to be environmentally conscious above all else. That sustainability has only added to her passion for the business. 

It also allows her to collect the type of product each chef wants — some chefs might love a large, pearly mussel, whereas others prefer to work with smaller-shelled mussels. She can pick and choose right there in the marsh for each chef.

“Sustainably, I maintain by harvesting per order. I never harvest for volume,” Shellem said in an interview with Wilmington NC Magazine. “If I did, I would worry that the product wouldn’t get handled properly or be refrigerated or even die.”  

Photo Courtesy Shell’em Seafood Co.

“You never know whose hands something is going into. I don’t want to have an ‘eh, that’s good enough’ mentality,” Shellem continued. “I give heart and thought to everything I do, and that affects the way the product is received and changes the excitement a chef has for putting it on the plate.”

Shellem’s local approach is changing the way great chefs get their seafood. Rather than having shellfish shipped in from states away, which causes quality and freshness to deteriorate, each chef can order directly with her and expect to receive oysters, mussels, and other sea delicacies delivered quickly and exactly as preferred. This process positively impacts the ocean, lowers carbon emissions needed for transport, and creates a healthier, fresher, and tastier plate for diners to enjoy.

Photo Courtesy St. Roch Raleigh 

“If I say I want three bags, she’s going to harvest me three bags, and that’s it,” said Sunny Gerhart, St. Roch Fine Oysters chef/owner to SouthPark Magazine. “The quality is there, and it’s super fresh coming right out of the water. We’re getting it the same day — she’s harvesting in the morning, and then she’s on the road. It’s hard to get any fresher than that.” 

Share on Social

Back To Top