All winter, we’ve been waiting for a spring thaw to get back out on the water to shoot the next installment in the Saving Paradise series for the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC).
But if we held our breath for spring, the air would freeze in our lungs! Despite the freezing temperatures, we went out this week to check out the First Light Oyster aquaculture farm. Run by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on a small grant in Popponessett Bay, it’s part of a growing industry (excuse the pun!) in the region.
Not only are oysters a local source of protein-rich food, aquaculture is providing jobs to lots of people who can’t make a living as commercial fishermen. It’s now a $5 million industry on Cape Cod, and set to grow even bigger. Not only that, oysters can filter an average of 15-25 gallons of water per day, feeding on the algae that thrive in nutrient-rich waters. In so doing, the shellfish sequester significant amounts of nitrogen (est. 250-1,000 kg/acre/year), incorporating it to their shells and meat rather than the water column and sediment.
During the Cape Cod Commission’s recent update of its 208 Watershed plan, stakeholders have expressed great interest in using aquaculture to meet state-mandated limits for nitrogen in the Cape’s 57 estuaries. The perceived benefits—the jobs and marketable food it would create, the savings from other wastewater management solutions, low energy costs—seem to outweigh the challenges: high startup capital and labor costs, competition for water use and access, theft, predation and other natural causes that can wipe out a shellfish crop.
But how does aquaculture fit in with other uses of the waterways? Is there a one-size-fits-all-approach, or does every estuary have unique considerations for siting aquaculture grants? Is it wise to put all our oysters in one basket— or will we need more than just shellfish to clean up our bays?
Shot in documentary style, the video will follow up on the first one with a personal approach to the subject, profiling aquaculture ventures in different marine environments of Mashpee and Wellfleet. These stories will be woven together with interviews on the history and science of aquaculture, helping viewers understand the pros and cons of using shellfish to solve our wastewater problems.