By BARRY A. COSTA-PIERCE/special to ecoRI.org News
|Experimental mussel culture in |
Here is a seed collection rope where
young mussels settle onto vertical lines
in the water.
(Photo courtesy of Rhode Island Sea Grant)
However, mussel farming in
Rhode Island and southern New England could readily compete with that of , especially in terms of quality. Local waters are rich in the plankton and particles in the water — called detritus — that feed mussels and other shellfish. Our waters also are warmer, so that mussels growing here take just 10 to 12 months from seed to market, a process that takes twice as long in Canadian waters. Prince Edward Island
Bill Silkes is president and owner of American Mussel Harvesters, a shellfish processing and marketing company in North Kingstown, and owner of Salt Water Farms in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay off
Aquidneck Island. Silkes is involved in a Sea Grant National Strategic Investment grant to expand mussel farming offshore. Silkes is working with a team of Rhode Island and Massachusetts fishermen, scientists and staff from the University of Rhode Island, the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole and the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) on a mussel-farming project in the waters off Newport, Block Island and . Massachusetts
He said farming mussels in southern
New England has the most immediate return on investment in terms of economic development for creating significant employment and economic opportunities. Silkes added that cultivation of seaweeds for “sea vegetables” is also an area of potential growth.
“We have a number of chefs that say they are interested, and we have sent out 30 pounds of samples for feedback,” he said.
Research also shows that oyster cultivation could be increased substantially in
. Former URI graduate student Carrie Byron found that the biomass of cultured oysters could be increased 625 times current levels for Narragansett Bay and 62 times in Rhode Island’s coastal lagoons — or salt ponds — before the ecology of these ecosystems would be affected. Rhode Island
Narragansett Bay, such an expansion would translate to about 218 million pounds of farmed oysters annually — an amount that is about four times the total estimated annual harvest of fish in the bay. Byron’s “socio-ecological carrying capacity” approach to aquaculture takes into consideration not only these figures and rigorous ecological modeling, but also a stakeholder process.
With the efforts of promising scientists, innovative business owners/farmers and others,
has a great deal of opportunity for growth in sustainable aquaculture. Rhode Island
Barry A. Costa-Pierce is the Rhode Island Sea Grant director and professor of Fisheries and Aquaculture at the
. The story appears in 41°N, a publication of Rhode Island Sea Grant and the Coastal Institute at the University of Rhode Island. University of Rhode Island
American Mussel Harvesters’ shellfish farm off
. Shown are experimental floating nursery systems for oysters. (Photo courtesy of Rhode Island Sea Grant) Middletown