The legendary American business magnate John D. Rockefeller once said, “The major fortunes in America have been made in land.” Well, in New Bedford that sentiment rings true with the ocean with the City’s reign as one of the wealthiest fishing ports in the world lasting generations.
In recent years, the Whaling City has seen the development of the offshore wind industry, heavily backed by Mayor Jon Mitchell as well as the state, which is expected to begin utilizing wind turbines off the coast of Massachusetts as a new source of energy by 2021.
Mayor Mitchell and Port Director Ed Anthes-Washburn joined representatives of the aquaculture industry at Fort Tabor – Fort Rodman Park on Tuesday to detail a report released by Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI) that reviews the opportunities for another ocean based industry on the South Coast.
The report from CEI, a community development foundation, analyzes the aquaculture industry along the coast with a focus on development potential as well as current challenges facing aquaculturists today. It contains overviews of the current aquaculture operations in region with recommendations that identify resources, developmental strategies, and future opportunities for the industry.
Hugh Cowperthwaite of CEI says the report conducted in the South Coast took about 12 months to complete. He says the study was conducted through scientific research methods combined with multiple interviews with locals in the industry.
“These farms represent 1,250 acres of production with a farm gate value of $23 million annually. In 2016, the South Coast alone represented 23-percent of the total farm acreage and in 2017 raised an estimated 2.2 million oysters,” Cowperthwaite said. “We’re here today to recognize that aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world. In the mid-1980’s there were about 30 or 40 people conducting aquaculture in all of Massachusetts, and now there’s over 350 permitted growers in the Commonwealth.”
Port Director Ed Anthes-Washburn says he’s excited about the economic potential for New Bedford that rests with boosting the industry in the region. Washburn argues that the aquaculture industry will not only be an economic driver for the seafood industry in the city, but will also diversify the fisheries already in the harbor.
“Obviously we think we can add a lot to the regional aquaculture scene, but we certainly see it as a two-way street. New Bedford businesses are really good at marketing seafood in other countries and we think that we can bring some of that know-how to the regional shellfish industry. So it’s certainly a mutually beneficial arrangement,” said Washburn. “We’re looking forward to moving forward and we thank the Mayor for putting this concept in our minds, and we’re excited to see what comes with it.”
The idea to bring the aquaculture industry to New Bedford was originally sparked by Mayor Jon Mitchell himself over a year ago. The Mayor says that he was on a routine morning run along the cove walk when he noticed that an opportunity for the industry to exist lies in the waters just off the shores of New Bedford.
“As I was running along the cove walk I looked out and noticed that along the wall there’s no room for development there, there’s no room for a beach, there’s no room for piers, there’s no room for waterfront homes or anything else, and people don’t boat in the area,” Mitchell explained. “So maybe we should be doing aquaculture there and I knew just vaguely that it had been something that’s been growing in other parts of New England, but we really hadn’t been doing it here. So I started wondering ‘why isn’t the biggest fishing port in America doing aquaculture?’”
Also speaking at the event was Seth Garfield of Cuttyhunk Oysters and Scott Soares of the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association and Massachusetts Shellfish Initiative. Copies of the report, entitled Opportunities for Aquaculture on the Massachusetts South Coast: A Sector Analysis, were made readily available at the event.