Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Rhode Island: Matunuck Oyster Bar (Part 1)
--Jacques Yves Cousteau
As I've mentioned multiple times before, the U.S. imports approximately 91% of the seafood that is consumed. That is an astounding statistic and it is imperative that we consume much more domestic seafood, for numerous reasons which I have also repeated on this blog. In addition, about 50% of the seafood we consume is from aquaculture, despite the fact that aquaculture often receives a bad rap. Some people outright dismiss farmed raised seafood, generally based on outdated information, and the media doesn't help, preferring to print scare stories about the dangers of aquaculture, rather than discussing the many success stories.
In fact, aquaculture has been improving for years, and is continuing to work towards greater sustainability. And it has improved far more than the horrendous factory farms often raising chickens, pigs, and cattle. It is bizarre to hear people tell me they won't eat farmed salmon, but they will still eat pork from factory farms without any issue. It is largely due to ignorance and misinformation of the actual facts.
In 2012, the U.S. produced about 594 million pounds of aquaculture seafood, both freshwater and marine, valued at about $1.2 billion. We have seen a steady growth in aquaculture since 2007, roughly 8% each year. However, the volume of aquaculture is only about 6% of the wild catch so there is much room for growth. The top U.S. marine aquaculture species by volume is Atlantic salmon with oysters as a close second. By value though, oysters take the top spot with salmon in second. Oysters are very sustainable and as they are filter feeders, they actually enhance the waters. There is no reason why we shouldn't increase oyster production in the U.S.
In Rhode Island, their top aquaculture product is oysters and the 2015 Annual Status Report of the Coastal Resources Management Council provided some interesting statistics concerning aquaculture in that state. There are now 61 aquaculture farms, up from 55, and the total area under cultivation is about 241 acres, a 17% increase from the prior year. The number of aquaculture farm workers also increased 20% from 142 to 171. About 8.2 million oysters were sold for consumption, an increase of 18% since 2013. Only about 47,000 Hard Clams were sold while the Blue Mussel harvest was nearly 16,000 pounds. It is great to see such growth.
Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingston. Matunuck is both an oyster farm and restaurant, and we got to tour the fascinating farm as well as enjoy a delicious lunch of seafood specialities, including raw oysters. If you enjoy seafood, or are concerned about sustainability, you should tour an oyster farm, to get educated about its operations. And Matunuck runs free public tours so this presents an excellent opportunity to see how oysters (and scallops) are raised.
When Perry was 12 years old, he used to dig littlenecks in Point Judith Pond, and this was the start of his love for the ocean and seafood. He would continue in the following years to collect seafood, whether eel trapping or scuba diving for steamers. He eventually earned a Masters degree in Aquaculture & Fisheries Technology from URI and did some teaching. In 2002, his interests led to him establishing the Matunuck Oyster Farm in Potter Pond (formerly known as Fish Pond), a saltwater pond, and eventually starting a restaurant in 2009. Interestingly, Perry stated that he "doesn't do what he loves but it is simply the best way he knows to make a living."
Eat more domestic Seafood! Eat more Oysters!