More than 350 oyster farmers now cultivate bottom leases in the shallow waters along the Northeastern seaboard, according to the Northeast Regional Aquaculture Center, up from handfuls 25 years ago. The rewards are great. With an insatiable half-shell market, gross profits are high and demand constant. But the challenges may be greater.
The Northeast’s boutique oyster farmers must contend with the vagaries of New England weather. They must also deal with a host of challenges tied directly to the environment and potentially amplified by climate change, including warming waters, increasing ocean acidity and the spread of diseases that can decimate shellfish stocks.
Climate change poses important challenges to the industry’s long-term viability. But to growers like Opton-Himmel, coping with the day-to-day quandaries of small business ownership and economic pressures of a crowded, premium market, the climate threat can feel abstrac