Since the pandemic oyster farmers have been hit hard. With restaurants that were their customers closing, their sales were way down and the oysters they were holding grew beyond the half-shell market. But growers in seven states now have a market for their overgrown oysters.
The Nature Conservancy in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts has been buying millions of bivalves around the country for rebuilding decimated oyster reefs. Oyster reefs help protect shorelines, filter water, and provide habitat for wildlife. The program is known as SOAR, Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration. It is funded by an anonymous donor who provided $2 million to buy more than 5 million oysters to eligible growers in seven states- Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. The 5 million oysters will populate 27 acres of reefs across 20 restorations sites.
SOAR anticipates that more than 100 shellfish companies will sell to the program and that revenue will help support 200 jobs in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Washington State.
The Pew Charitable Trusts hopes “SOAR can catalyze greater collaboration between oyster growers and states, conservationists, and other stakeholders, and that reef restoration projects can become a new market for shellfish farmers. Accomplishing these goals would benefit growers, shellfish populations, and coastal ecosystems and communities.”
Photo courtesy of Nature.org