The environmentalists at the heart of Maine’s booming oyster business

Mook Sea Farm worker Daniel Paul pulls a bag of oysters from a floating cage in the Damariscotta River in South Bristol on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Four Mook Sea Farm workers began their first oyster harvest of the day on Sept. 22 later than usual, given the morning’s torrential rain and lightning. On some days when there is a downpour a state alert shuts down oyster harvesting until water purity can be tested, as more runoff into rivers can result in unhealthy levels of bacteria in the shellfish, which are often eaten raw.

But on this day the workers were free to pull up floating oyster cages from the Damariscotta River, near South Bristol. Under overcast skies, they yanked out six muddy bags from each cage filled with hundreds of oysters and dumped them into large bins on the boat. In one hour they harvested nearly 50,000 oysters to take back to the warehouse to process and deliver to local restaurants.

Scientists and oyster farmers have seen more intense storms over time, which have caused frequent shutdowns. Oyster farmers in Maine have also had to contend with another result of climate change: ocean acidification. Studies show that the change in the chemistry of seawater, caused by the ocean absorbing more carbon dioxide, can slow the growth of oyster larvae shells — and can sometimes even dissolve them.

Mehr Sher, Bangor Daily News, 29 September 2022. Full article.

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