Study Examines Barriers and Opportunities in the Region
NEW BEDFORD, MA: A Sector Analysis for Opportunities for Aquaculture on the Massachusetts South Coast was released today, providing a regional overview of aquaculture operations in the towns of Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Marion, Mattapoisett, Wareham, Westport and the City of New Bedford.
Authored by sector experts from Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI), the report explores the aquaculture industry along the South Coast with a focus upon its economic potential and some of the challenges facing aquaculturists today. The analysis contains an overview of current operations as well as recommendations identifying resources, developmental strategies, and investment needs. Over fifty regional shareholders – including town harbormasters, oyster growers, municipal and state employees, non-profit entities, financiers and economic development professionals – lent their expertise to the development of the study. Funding for the study was provided by The Garfield Foundation and Santander Bank.
Aquaculture on the South Coast is currently predominately made up of oyster growers working on small farms. Relative to other established oyster-producing areas in the state, such as Duxbury and Wellfleet, the South Coast farms are smaller-scale and most are relatively new to the business. Farmers have faced their share of challenges – from “Not in My Back Yard” pushback from homeowners and recreational boaters to lengthy and complex site permitting processes – but interest remains strong and slowly an industry is growing. In 2016 the South Coast region produced about 2.2 million oysters and currently utilizes over 160 acres for farming.
The report identifies the proposed Aquaculture Development in New Bedford as presenting the greatest potential opportunity for growth in the immediate future. Under Mayor Jon Mitchell’s initiative, the New Bedford Port Authority (NBPA) released a Request for Information (RFI) earlier this year to gauge interest about opening areas of the Port to aquaculture. Feedback to the RFI was positive enough that the NBPA is optimistic in advancing the process to the next stages. With a proposed allotment of almost 8,400 acres, the Port of New Bedford presents the biggest opportunity for commercial scale aquaculture growth in the region, with the potential to attract larger-scale, multiple worker farms to the area.
“Successful cities are entrepreneurial cities, and successful entrepreneurship often builds on ideas that existed in plain sight. As America’s top fishing port, it only makes sense for us to explore how we might take advantage of our opportunities in the rapidly growing aquaculture industry,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “Our coastal waters can support a variety of aquaculture without compromising commercial fishing or recreational boating, and our port is the best place anywhere to process seafood of all types. I believe we should pursue this opportunity to expand our economy and create new jobs for our residents to its fullest.”
The report also contains summaries of surrounding towns from Westport to Wareham, with a list of resources covering aquaculture education and training, equipment, access to capital (loans and grants), hatcheries, and municipal, regional, state and federal resources available as well as recommendations on potential aquaculture growth strategies in the region. “Our intent was to investigate opportunities and provide a resource for current or potential growers in the region. A foundation of opportunity has been outlined”, said Hugh Cowperthwaite, co-author and Director of the Fisheries Program at CEI.
The Garfield Foundation, a private grantmaking foundation that supports innovative collaborative models for social and environmental change, funded this analysis. Santander Bank (with a local branch in New Bedford) also provided funding support to commission the study.