Diving deep into restorative aquaculture
How tech is transforming our understanding of the ecological benefits delivered by New England’s renowned shellfish farming sector
“If you like the taste of a lobster stew, served by a window with an ocean view…” (Old Cape Cod, by Patti Page – 1957)
When it comes to famous seafood regions of the world, it doesn’t get much more iconic than New England. From steaming bowls of clam chowder enjoyed in downtown Boston’s bustling bistros to lobsters caught off the rugged North Atlantic coastline of Maine, fish and shellfish are deeply ingrained into the region’s culture.
But while ocean-going fishing vessels ply their trade alongside thriving estuarine aquaculture operations, historically there has only been limited understanding of the ecology and interrelationships between these two segments of New England’s world-renowned seafood economy.
This is set to change thanks to a pioneering project led by The Nature Conservancy’s Massachusetts chapter working in partnership with Northeastern University, local shellfish growers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Northeast Fisheries Science Center.
In regional terms, this collaboration aims to support increased productivity of sustainable seafood, as well as the estuarine ecosystems that sustain the sector and the communities whose livelihoods rely on them.
Coastal programme manager, Massachusetts Chapter at The Nature Conservancy
The former oyster farmer's responsibilities include developing, implementing and monitoring state-wide and regional coastal conservation strategies. His current work is focused on advancing the policy and practice of nearshore habitat restoration and shellfish aquaculture through collaborative research efforts.
Global lead, The Nature Conservancy’s Aquaculture Program
The program consists of active projects in seven countries designed to demonstrate the environmental, social and economic benefits aquaculture provides for people and nature.
Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy in February 2016, Robert served as the Program Coordinator for the NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture. Previously, Robert served as Knauss Fellow with the US Department of State, where he served as point of contact on aquaculture and represented the United States at international fisheries negotiations in the North Pacific Ocean.
President at Island Creek Oysters
The Massachusetts-based shellfish farm and distributor started in 1992 by Skip Bennett now sells over 11 million oysters annually through their e-commerce site, Duxbury retail store, and to 600 of the country’s best restaurants including five of their own properties in New England. Chris also chairs the company's non-profit arm, Island Creek Oysters Foundation, which funds development projects that deploy aquaculture as an affordable, environmentally sound source of protein and jobs.