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Program offers a lifeline to fishermen in Massachusetts, US -- and a home for unwanted oysters by Barbara Moran December 24,2020   |  Source: wbur

Standing on a cold, wet beach, Bruce Silverbrand rummages through a metal basket of oysters. He picks out a huge one — almost as big as a mitten, with a knobbed and lumpy shell. It’s what people in the shellfish industry call a “big ugly,” though Silverbrand abhors the term.

"I would never call an oyster ugly — these are my babies," he says. He considers the monster in his hand for a moment, turning it over for a good look. "This is not a bad looking oyster, really, for a big oyster."

Silverbrand runs the Buttermilk Bay Oyster Company in Bourne. He’s been a shellfisherman his whole adult life — about 30 years — but he started growing oysters just a few years ago. This was the year they were going to turn the corner, he says. Then came COVID-19.

"The beginning of this year, we sold 28,000 oysters in a matter 10 weeks," he says. We were really rolling. And then all of a sudden the COVID comes and, you know — it stops everything."

The oyster industry in Massachusetts is growing fast, doubling in size every five years and landing about $30 million worth of oysters in 2019. But this year the pandemic has hit the industry hard. In June, fishermen were looking at an 80% loss for the year, according to Jeff Kennedy, a shellfish program leader for the

 

© WBUR 2020

Theme(s): Fisheries Development and Aquaculture.

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