How RI’s Shellfish Industry is Innovating During Coronavirus: RI Sea Grant on LIVE
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Azure Cygler, Fisheries and Aquaculture Extension Specialist at the RI Sea Grant at the University of Rhode Island appeared on GoLocal LIVE, and talked about how the aquaculture industry in the state is adapting due to coronavirus restrictions — and innovating.
Cygler joined GoLocal LIVE as part of an ongoing partnership between the Rhode Island Food Policy Council and GoLocal.GET THE LATEST BREAKING NEWS HERE -- SIGN UP FOR GOLOCAL FREE DAILY EBLAST
“In terms of our seafood industry, we have some of the best and most amazing innovators you could imagine,” said Cygler. “So at the University of Rhode Island, I work with Rhode Island Sea Grant and the Coast Resources Center — I’ve been working with these folks for years and I just wanted to kind of zero in on the shellfish industry, which is part of the bigger seafood system.”
“Our shellfish industry, in terms of aquaculture, we have 83 farm active currently in the state and they were really hit hard — 90% of their sales declined in late March and April,” she said. “These are some of the most amazing innovators in the world, as anyone who works on the water especially, and they’re really starting to figure out how to tap into the opportunity. They’re tapping into some direct sales channels, they’re offering other products and services, they’re looking to the USDA and others sort of at the national level for assistance.”
Rhode Islanders can buy local by visiting the Ocean State Shellfish Cooperative.
“Oysters are the predominant crop grown by our aquaculturists — over 90% — and the wonderful thing is restaurants are reopening,” said Cygler. “We are in phase three, people are starting to adapt to this new normal, and they’re starting to see sales.”
“In terms of the growers, we’re starting to see the provide their oyster crops to restaurants — in the past, 90% of their sales go directly to restaurants, so there’s not a lot of direct to consumer that’s happened in the past, and that is slowing starting to change,” she said. “Growers are tapping into existing sales channels like what’s good in other farm delivery apps, and they’re also innovating, expanding their own websites, and getting the proper licenses to sell directly. So they’re really seeing that opportunity come to fruition.”
The Rhode Island aquaculture industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus -- loss of sales, but also forced to reinvent their business models fast.