Underwater Farms: The East Coast Oyster Industry Fortifies Itself Against a Changing Environment

by Jane Ahrens
Photo by Lina Volin

By Lina Volin
December 15, 2017

Article Excerpt:

When I set out to learn more about the East Coast oyster industry, I knew very little about it. I abandoned my plan for a pretty profile of what struck me as a quintessential New England business soon after encountering stories like Bill’s. How was his hatchery’s decline explained by the interactions of environmental changes, state regulations, and internal changes within the industry? Was it a trend replicated across oyster farms? The questions only became more complicated with the unknowns of climate change, and I wondered: How are oyster farmers responding to all of these changes?

I started, though, with a smaller question. Where do oysters come from? Of the two types of oysters—cultured and wild—the former all originate in the same place: a hatchery.

This story starts at the hatchery of the Fishers Island Oyster Farm, owned by Sarah and Steve Malinowski since 1987. One of only a few hatcheries that serve the approximately 400 oyster farms on the East Coast, the Malinowskis’ hatchery is accessible by a ferry service that shuttles passengers between Fishers Island and the mainland several times a day.

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USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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