WHOI Sea Grant Program Receives Grants for Aquaculture Reasearch

These surf clams (Spisula solidissima) were grown under nets in Barnstable Harbor on Cape Cod and harvested in their second year of growth. (Photo by Abigail Archer, Woods Hole Sea Grant and Cape Cod Cooperative Extension)

WOODS HOLE – The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Woods Hole Sea Grant program recently received two awards totaling $650,000 to support research aimed at increasing the state’s aquaculture production.

One project will aim to simplify the process and reduce the cost of obtaining permits to farm marine species in U.S. Waters.

Led by Hauke Kite-Powell, a research specialist at WHOI, the project will conduct fisheries, protected species, shipping industry, and other reviews on selected offshore areas in advance, to reduce the regulatory burden for aquaculture growers.

“The permitting process for aquaculture in federal waters can be onerous and complex,” said Kite-Powell. “Our approach is to work with major stakeholders, including the aquaculture industry, the federal and state permitting agencies, and the fishing/shipping/protected species communities, to identify suitable areas in federal waters off New England, and identify a range of aquaculture gear types and native species for which they can be pre-permitted.

The project, which is estimated to take two years and involves the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association and researchers at the New England Aquarium and UMass Boston, will determine if this simplified permitting mechanism for aquaculture ventures enhances U.S. aquaculture production.

A second project will conduct market analysis on the feasibility of culturing species other than oysters, including surf clams and blood arks, along with shucked oysters.

The project is a collaboration between Woods Hole Sea Grant, Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, and Wellfleet SPAT (Shellfish Promotion and Tasting).

The project builds on past research by Woods Hole Sea Grant and the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension to culture surf clams and blood arks and social science research into consumer appetite for new shellfish products.

“We want to get ahead of the curve and diversify, but growers need a certain amount of market-based data before investing in a new species or new markets,” said Abigail Archer, amarine resource specialistwith WoodsHoleSeaGrant and the Cape CodCooperative Extension. “It’s inherently risky to rely on a monoculture of oysters – disease would significantly impact the industry.”

Based at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Woods Hole Sea Grant program supports research and education, and an extension program in concert with the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, that encourage environmental stewardship, long-term economic development, and responsible use of the nation’s coastal and ocean resources.

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