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2016 Aquaculture report shows growth despite shellfish closures
March 23, 2017, WAKEFIELD –The aquaculture industry in Rhode Island experienced growth in 2016 despite an algal bloom during the late summer (August and September) that impacted the amount of product ready to be sold at-market and product value, according to the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council’s annual status report, “Aquaculture in Rhode Island.”
In 2016, the farm gate value (the value for the product paid to the farmer) of the state’s aquaculture products decreased, from $5.4 million in 2015 to $5.3 million.
The number of farms increased from 61 to 70, and acres farmed grew by 33.15 acres, a 13.7 percent increase, to a total of 274.53 acres farmed. Oysters remain the aquaculture product of choice in the state, with more than 7.8 million sold for consumption, down 453,978 from last year, directly related to the rust tide bloom or Cochlodinium polykrikoides, which is not toxic to humans but is harmful to shellfish. Because oysters – which are usually eating larger volumes of food to plump up for winter – do not like the rust tide, they didn’t eat as much and fewer were large enough to bring to market. This resulted in a smaller overall harvest and increased shellfish mortality.
Oyster seed sales from Rhode Island aquaculturists were valued at $183,000, up from last year’s value of $162,500. Nine new farms were permitted in 2016, and nine started growing kelp, and their harvests should be noted in the 2017 and 2018 reports. The number of aquaculture farm workers also increased modestly from 171 to 177.
View the full report (PDF).