Salt Pond Farming

Families in small town, coastal Maine have been fisherfolk for generations, but waters warm and fish patterns change, many are looking at alternative livelihoods. Joe Young, pictured above, is diversifying into oyster and kelp farming in addition to his dockside cafe that where he sells lobster rolls, lobster dinners and, now, his homegrown oysters.

A FISHERMAN TRIES FARMING

COREA, Me. — The boats start up around 3:30 in the morning, stirring the village with the babble of engines before they motor out to sea. They will return hours later, loaded with lobster.

Joe Young’s boat has not gone out lately. Instead, he puts on waders and sloshes into the salt pond behind his house, an inlet where water rushes in and out with the tides. After a lifetime with most of his income tied to what he finds in the sea, this lobsterman — and sixth-generation fisherman — is trying his hand at something new. He is farming oysters.“Said I would never have a garden,” Mr. Young, 64, says, as he tends to his briny nursery. Tens of thousands of oysters the size of peanuts are growing inside porous boxes, stacked up like underwater file drawers, in a contraption called an “oyster condo.” He gives one of the boxes a shake, hoping to dislodge a slimy orange growth that has taken up residence, and flings away a green crab. Nearby, kelp he is growing sways lazily from a long underwater rope.

Reaching into the glassy water, Mr. Young plucks larger oysters from among the smooth stones, popping the mottled mollusks into a big white bucket.

“It’s different from lobstering,” Mr. Young said, “because I’m in the whole process.”

In some parts of the state, aquaculture has met with resistance over how it might block access to the water and other issues. But a growing number of people in Maine are trying it. The state’s Department of Marine Resources said the number of licenses for small aquaculture operations in this state has more than doubled in the past 18 months, to 415. There are another 126 larger farms, which can be as big as 100 acres. New growers have much to learn, and the state is considering requiring them to take a course on shellfish handling and health.

Some people have turned to farms because they were unable to get state permission to fish in waters where they had hoped to. Others, like Mr. Young, want to diversify their sources of income, which could prove useful in an era of warming waters and a changing climate….

…To Mr. Young, aquaculture does not look so different from catching lobsters. “Fisherman are farmers,” he said. “There’s one crop, and it’s lobster.”

Read the entire article here.

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