Aquaculture is the rearing of aquatic animals or the cultivation of aquatic plants for food. The cultivation of marine and freshwater organisms is a very diverse segment of the Massachusetts agriculture industry. We produce aquatic species for food, education, ornamental decoration, and bait/fishing activities. There are 6 species of shellfish and 10 species of finfish that are cultivated specifically for sport fishing activities.
The Aquaculture Program, located within the Division of Agricultural Conservation and Technical Assistance, fosters the development of marine life and the aquaculture industry by attempting to implement the Massachusetts Aquaculture Strategic Plan.
The Southeastern Massachusetts Aquaculture Center (SEMAC) contracted with the UMASS Center for Marketing Research to conduct an economic survey of the aquaculture industry in Massachusetts; sampling results are below:
- The output of the shellfish aquaculture industry in Massachusetts was valued at approximately $25.4 million in 2013, which in turn generated approximately $45.5 million in the Massachusetts economy
- Shellfish farmers were responsible for approximately 909 jobs
- Shellfish farmers paid approximately $11.9 million in wages in 2013. Their economic activity generated additional labor income of $8.2 million, for a total of approximately $20.1 million in labor income for shellfish farmers in MA
Education is an important part of the Massachusetts Aquaculture Development plan. Aquaculture education generates appropriately targeted research, encourages workforce development, promotes public awareness, and cultivates potential aquaculturists. In Massachusetts, where public and municipal entities often have bearing over aquaculture project development, public awareness is especially critical toward aquaculture development.
With the importance of education in mind, there are a number of efforts to promote academic and public education opportunities. Relationships enable strong collaboration and sharing of resources with the Aquaculture Centers, SEMAC, NEMAC, and WMCSA. These organizations facilitate education for the public about aquaculture and keeping the industry current with new technology.
Although the cultivation of aquatic species (specifically shellfish and crustaceans) was practiced by the Native Americans and later by the colonists on Cape Cod,
The cultivation of aquatic species, specifically shellfish and crustaceans, was practiced by the Native Americans and later by the colonists on Cape Cod. It was not until the 1970's when more efficient cultivation techniques were developed so that commercial cultivation could begin in Massachusetts.
Since that time, aquaculture has grown to include more than 15 species of fish and shellfish that are cultivated for food, research, biomedical, sport, and ornamental purposes.
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries reported that the Massachusetts shellfish aquaculture industry generated more than $6.2 million in 2006. At that time, there were more than 350 individuals and companies involved in aquaculture in Massachusetts. Nearly 300 of these are marine shellfish culture enterprises growing primarily Quahogs and American oysters.
Massachusetts finfish growers produce a variety of species of finfish, including barramundi, tilapia, largemouth bass, black sea bass, brown bullhead, several species of trout, and several species of baitfish.
Technical Assistance & Information Resources
Scientific research and old-fashioned ingenuity drive the Massachusetts aquaculture industry to develop new technology and culture methods.
Massachusetts is also fortunate to have three regional state aquaculture centers:
- Southeastern Massachusetts Aquaculture Center (SEMAC)
- Northeastern Massachusetts Aquaculture Center (NEMAC)
- Western Massachusetts Center for Sustainable Aquaculture (WMCSA)
In addition to staff expertise at each of the centers, they also house a great deal of aquaculture information. SEMAC has established a number of satellite resource centers at regional public libraries throughout Southeastern Massachusetts . These centers are an excellent resource for technical outreach and industry support.