via The Nature Conservancy

USA - Conservation in a Time of COVID-19: Coalition SOARs Into Action to Support US Shellfish Farmers

Following a reduction in seafood restaurant sales during the pandemic, a new project aims to take 5 million excess oysters be rebuild shellfish reefs – turning economic calamity into long-term conservation gain.

The Covid-19 pandemic and global lockdowns have led to significant struggles for many industries, and have been particularly difficult for the restaurant sector. This, of course, has affected restaurant suppliers, such as shellfish growers, many of whom had to lay off staff and are stuck holding excess stock of their product—including oysters that have outgrown their marketable size.

In response to Covid-19’s impact on the US shellfish-farming community, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and The Pew Charitable Trusts have launched a dual economic relief and marine restoration programme, working in parallel with similar efforts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Supporting Oyster and Aquaculture Restoration (SOAR) initiative is a ground-breaking two-year project that aims to provide $2 million in direct payments to oyster farmers to purchase oysters for restoration. SOAR is expected to support more than 100 shellfish companies and preserve aquaculture jobs across three hard-hit coastal regions of northern New England, the Mid-Atlantic region and Washington State.

Ensuring that the shellfish aquaculture industry endures through these challenges is in the interest of the conservation community: in addition to providing a sustainable source of seafood and jobs, oyster farming, when conducted responsibly, has a positive benefit on coastal ecology.

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