Oregon shellfish farmers: perceptions of stressors, adaptive strategies, and policy linkages


  • Interviews were conducted with fifteen (79%) of oyster farmers in Oregon.
  • Farmers are most impacted by environmental, economic, and regulatory stressors.
  • Shellfish farmers had matching adaptive strategies to address these stressors.
  • Flexible aquaculture policies can help support these strategies.


In the United States, domestic oyster aquaculture production is insufficient to meet national demand, thus creating a reliance on international oyster imports for consumption. West coast shellfish farmers are threatened by climate change, including ocean acidification as well as socioeconomic challenges such as labor availability. To expand and enhance United States oyster production, and support domestic food security and livelihoods, a better understanding of the limitations that oyster farmers’ experience, and corresponding pathways forward for adaptation is needed. Through semi-structured interviews conducted with commercial Oregon shellfish farmers, we assess the environmental, economic, social and regulatory stressors impacting oyster growing operations, and the corresponding adaptive strategies employed or envisioned by aquaculture farmers. We find farmers are most impacted by environmental stressors (nuisance species that interact with oysters or oyster habitat negatively), followed by regulatory and economic stressors (permitting and regulations and labor availability). Farmers perceived ocean acidification as a risk, but primarily at the oyster larva stage rather than the juvenile or adult grow-out stage. Examples of farmer-identified adaptive strategies included streamlining permitting and regulations, incentivizing employee retention, and having flexibility in culture type to avoid nuisance species and other environmental stressors. An increase in targeted outreach related to aquaculture policies and engagement with industry, scientists, managers, and policy-makers could facilitate policies that support these and other adaptive strategies.

Green K. M., Spalding A. K., Ward M., Levine A., Wolters E. A., Hamilton S. L. & Rice L., 2023. Oregon shellfish farmers: perceptions of stressors, adaptive strategies, and policy linkages. Ocean & Coastal Management 234: 106475. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2022.106475. Article.

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