The restaurant closures caused by COVID-19 have severely slowed the demand for farmed shellfish, leaving oyster farmers struggling.
This has led to a surplus of oysters that are becoming to big for the traditional “raw bar” market. This accumulating supply could lead to a potential collapse in oyster prices.
Combined with growers’ loss of income from restaurant sales since March 2020, this puts more than 3,000 jobs in the oyster aquaculture industry at risk.
Created in collaboration with Pew Charitable Trusts, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, the Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR) initiative aims to extend $2 million in payments to oyster farmers over the next two years. The program expects to support more than 100 shellfish companies and preserve over 200 critical jobs in northern New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Washington state. Simultaneously, over 5 million oysters will be deployed to rebuild 27 acres of imperiled native shellfish reefs across 20 restoration sites.
The initiative will also establish a $1 million Shellfish Growers Resilience Fund program with Pew, NOAA and shellfish growers’ associations as collaborating partners to address some of the underlying challenges growers face. The goal is to pave the way for a viable and sustainable U.S. shellfish industry that benefits the ocean and the communities which rely upon it.
Are you a shellfish grower interested in participating in the SOAR program?
Click here for more information on how to apply.