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Oyster hatchery breaks ground on the east coast of the U.S.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Maryland will soon be home to one of the largest commercial oyster hatcheries on the U.S. east coast with the opening of Ferry Cove Shellfish in Spring 2021. The state-of-the-art facility will operate in Sherwood, Maryland, producing the Eastern oyster to support the growing mid-Atlantic demand for shellfish.

As one of the few privately held hatcheries in the state of Maryland, Ferry Cove Shellfish hopes to facilitate the growth of the aquaculture sector, both public and private, while being inclusive of all stakeholders.

“One of the barriers to growth that quickly emerged as we evaluated the aquaculture market was the availability of larvae and seed to support the shellfish industry,” said Stephan Abel, president and CEO of Ferry Cove Shellfish. “We want to grow the segment while, at the same time, preserving the culture and history of the iconic oyster fishery.”

Using advanced hatchery production techniques including a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) and biosecurity systems, coupled with its green building design and energy-efficient upgrades, Ferry Cove Shellfish will provide the industry with high-quality, low-cost larvae and seed. In addition, Ferry Cove Shellfish will be working to develop and implement new, innovative grow-out techniques to optimize the production of shellfish and address coastal resiliency issues.

The 20,000 square-foot facility will feature state-of-the-art equipment for algal production, water filtration and seawater heating, allowing the hatchery to extend its larvae production beyond the current April-to-September season. It will also include back-up systems to ensure operations during tropical storms, low salinity and poor water quality events. Research and planning for Ferry Cove and its systems began several years ago and were finally realized when site work began this past summer.

Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay was once the epicenter for oyster production in the United States but over time, due to several factors, the industry has seen a dramatic decline in harvests from over 10 million bushels annually to a few hundred thousand. Over the last decade, there has been a resurgence of the popularity of shellfish consumption and an increase in oyster farms and hatchery-produced shellfish being produced across the region.

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