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USA - Conservation Titans Offer Lifeline to Oyster Aquaculture Sector

$2 million in funding has been pledged to an initiative that aims to restore oyster stocks in several US states as well as provide financial support for a sector that's been hit hard by a downturn in demand caused by Covid-19 restrictions.

The Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR) oyster purchase programme has been launched by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Pew and aims to transplant 5 million hatchery-grown oysters to help to reform reefs. It will initially be deployed in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Washington State.

The states were chosen, according to TNC, for a “mix of grower need, restoration opportunity, gaps unaddressed by other similar programs and available funding in these states”.

According to TNC: "oyster aquaculture provides jobs in coastal communities, provides a sustainable source of seafood and can help improve ocean health by providing habitat for fish and improving water quality. But, Covid-19 and the resulting restaurant closures have led to a dramatic decrease in demand for farmed shellfish, leaving oyster farmers across the country struggling to market their products.

"This lack of demand has caused a growing surplus of oysters that are becoming oversized for the traditional 'raw bar' market. This accumulating supply could lead to a potential collapse in oyster prices. Combined with growers’ loss of income from restaurant sales since March 2020, this puts more than 3,000 jobs in the oyster aquaculture industry at risk."

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