Study finds California shellfish farmers burdened by bureaucracy

A worker at Hog Island Oyster Farm in California

A study on shellfish farmers in the U.S. state of California, conducted by researchers at Oregon State University, found that farmers need additional resources and less red tape in order to overcome current and future environmental challenges.

Farmers from California’s Humboldt Bay, Point Reyes, and the Central Coast were interviewed for the study, which also involved researchers from San Diego State University.

Commercial shellfish aquaculture operations are a major industry on the Pacific coast. Combined, their operations generate USD 270 million (EUR 251 million) in annual sales and provide two-thirds of the farm-raised clams, mussels, and oysters sold in the U.S., according to data from the Pacific Shellfish Institute.

The study found that, for some shellfish farmers, the cost of obtaining all of the permits they need to operate their farms can exceed USD 150,000 (EUR 139,850).

Study co-author and Oregon State University Associate Professor of Marine and Coastal Policy Ana K. Spalding said that farmers interviewed said they have to wear many hats and juggle regulatory issues while they’re also trying to work their farms.

“The regulatory agencies in California play an important role in managing and balancing all the different needs and interests along the coast. But I think the challenge here is the multiple agencies involved and the need for better coordination among them,” Spalding said in a statement.

The farmers said they need updated data about water quality in their region, as well as better communication with state agencies and researchers, so they can get advice on where they should operate. They’re also getting less information after federal funding for monitoring was cut.

“Those farmers that partnered with scientists were definitely at the forefront of innovation and adaptive strategies, and they had some ability to pinpoint what was happening or at least put together proposals for what needed to be done,” she said. “I would say it’s more a challenge of connecting the people who need the information with the people who are generating and analyzing it.”

Researchers are now working on a similar study for Oregon’s shellfish farms. Researchers say farmers in that state are dealing with similar issues, but don’t have to deal with the exorbitant costs found in California.

“Similar to California growers, Oregon growers employ a suite of adaptive strategies, including gear innovations that exclude predators, networking with scientists and other farmers, and optimizing oyster survival at different life-stages through the growing process,” said Kristen Green, an Oregon Stateu University postdoctoral scholar leading the Oregon study.  

Photo courtesy of Remy Hale/Oregon State University


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500