Shellfish farming: Wetter than plant farming.

Let me preface this by saying I know pretty much nothing about the mechanics of oyster-farming. Aquaculture in general is something that interests me, but there’s only so many hours in a day to split between work, my daily ablutions, and trying to learn new things.

However, because I’m interested in the process, I was happy to get a chance to help the town of Brewster maintain their oyster grant this past week. The oysters grown in the cages we were fixing are used during the recreational oyster catching (collecting?) season. During the warmer months, the town of Brewster takes the oysters they grow and scatters them in areas designated for recreational collecting (harvesting?) The result is something like a cross between an easter-egg hunt, going apple picking, and a day at the beach. The oysters, which in the wild grow attached to a hard substrate, are simply plopped down in the water in the collection area to await their gristly demise. The plus side of the whole equation is that by providing people interested in collecting shellfish with a place to do so, the town is able to justifiably restrict access to other potential oyster habitats in the area. Again, I don’t know much about the mechanics of fishery maintenance. But on the surface, that seems like a good idea.

This picture was taken about twenty minutes before the storm arrived. Once it showed up  I went from looking fairly well put together to looking like a drowned cat in all of five minutes.

This picture was taken about twenty minutes before the storm arrived. Once it showed up I went from looking fairly well put together to looking like a drowned cat in all of five minutes.

Our job was to help repair some of the cages that the oysters mature in. Salt water corrodes everything, and the nails that helped keep the cages together were – in some cases – more rust than substance. I got to put on waders for the first time in almost a year and splash around for a few hours. An unexpected rainstorm put a little bit of a damper on the afternoon, but I’ve long since past the point where getting wet at work bothers me.

Patrick, the member in the bright orange jacket, was apparently the only one of us who thought to check to the forecast. Oh well.

Patrick, the member in the bright orange jacket, was apparently the only one of us who thought to check to the forecast. Oh well.

The entire process only took about two hours, which makes sense since we were limited by the tides. At high tide the cages are covered completely and our job would have been considerably less pleasant.

Each cage had multiple layers that needed to be removed, repaired, and replaced.

Each cage had multiple layers that needed to be removed, repaired, and replaced.

Hopefully I’ll have another chance to learn more about the process by which these (arguably) delicious suckers are grown and distributed. The rain, and the nature of the work kept me from being able to ask all of the questions I had at the time.

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Posted on December 16, 2012, in Americorps Cape Cod and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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