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Visiting the Aquaculture Research Corporation (A.R.C.) and Wellfleet

During my recent visit to Aquaculture Research Corporation (A.R.C.) Hatchery in Dennis, Massachusetts, I received a real warm welcome from President Rick Sawyer. Hats off to Rick for the taking the time to discuss the craft, intricacies, and the infrastructure required for A.R.C to produce boatloads of shellfish seed to the New England aquaculture industry (reputably something that A.R.C. does extremely well). One absolutely critical element for a shellfish hatchery is to maintain a continuous large supply of clean sea water to keep all of the sea animals fed and happy. A.R.C. employs a weir holding system to adjust for the rise and fall of the Cape Cod tides. Inside the hatchery, shellfish “seed” is produced from brood stock producing eggs and sperm which in turn create a larval stage eventually developing into seed (obviously a very over simplified explanation). To feed the juvenile shellfish, algae is grown in large quantities inside the A.R.C. hatchery. Outside the hatchery the shellfish seed is grown out in neat expansive linear upweller systems. Upwellers implement sea water flowing through chambers for the shellfish seed to grow faster with an increased food supply.

This provides an increase in available food supply to the shellfish seed and promotes faster growth rates. From my observations, shellfish husbandry requires genuine expertise and excellent timing. The delivery of healthy and robust shellfish seed, aligned with the calendar date that growers are planning to start planting seed on their individual farms, is pure scientific magic. From personal experience managing the Tabor Academy Oyster Farm, I know full well that waiting for shellfish seed from the hatchery in June is like being a youngster waiting for Christmas to come! Before the end of 2021, Northeast Maritime Institute will be placing a seed order with A.R.C. for planting our 2022 aquaculture program sea farm. We will also graciously accept and truly appreciate the willingness of A.R.C. to support our developing Restorative Aquaculture training and education programs.

My next Cape Cod aquaculture visit was to consult with my old friend Jim O’Connell, one of the veteran Wellfleet, Massachusetts shell fisherman. I wanted to get Jim’s advice about the associate degree Restorative Aquaculture program I was developing for NMI. Jim and his capable crew were busy getting aquaculture gear ready to deploy on the next morning tide. Jim and some of the other Wellfleet farmers work their farm sites from trucks and trailers perched at the intertidal zone. The last time I worked with Jim, we floated the gear and product in and out by canoe. Talking oyster and clam aquaculture with Jim is always multifaceted. Part history, part science, part anecdote, part grass roots politician….. pause to adjust the prep work….. “where did I leave off?” …. with Jim there is never a lag in the aquacultural dissertation. We discussed the aquaculture gamut… from how to reuse zip ties, to researching and testing anti-fouling paints to prevent marine growth on nets that protect the clam seeded areas from predators. Our conversation touched on Wellfleet SPAT (Shellfish Promotion and Tasting, Inc.). From what I learned about SPAT through my Wellfleet friends, every coastal township deserves the community aquaculture support that SPAT promotes!

I was happy to share the NMI five-day summer aquaculture community education outreach program as a helpful model for SPAT to consider. I am continually wowed by the way that the aquaculture community looks after each other, and my trip to Dennis and Wellfleet, Massachusetts reinforced this!

Click here to learn more about NMI’s Office of Restorative Aquaculture.

David Bill

Restorative Aquaculture Program Director
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