Join the Poppasquash Oysters™ campaign!
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Hi, my name is Neil Thompson and I am trying to raise 3 million dollars to establish what I believe to be a first-of-its-kind environmental and educational nonprofit organization.
A 1995 graduate from the University of Rhode Island Fisheries Science and Aquaculture program, I began Windfall Shellfish in 1998. Selling its first Poppasquash Oyster™” in 2000, the farm is located in Bristol, RI in front of 70 year family waterfront property which has proven too expensive to keep. I’ve often thought the property, with the access and land it affords would make an interesting non-profit organization. I would argue it is a rare opportunity to re-purpose a property like this for a greater good. Moreover, my unique three year production cycle provides BIG environmental benefits to the Narragansett Bay Watershed, something the NRCS (National Resource Conservation Society) and the Eastern Conservation District of Rhode Island recognized me with an award for in 2011.
Oysters, like most shellfish, are referred to as “community spawners” (broadcast spawners). They live in groups or clusters in order to reproduce, collectively releasing their reproductive material into the water column. Oysters are also “protandric” in their biology, arguably all male in their first two years of sexual maturity, with some changing to female thereafter.
Typical oyster farms target a two year (18 month) production cycle to minimize the threat of predation and disease. There are four diseases which can affect a crop. One of these, called “Dermo” (Perkinsus marinus), decimated the farm in 2011 and 2012 with production dropping 50%. Ironically, a benefit of these mortality events is the surviving oysters theoretically pass along disease resistance in their DNA during spawn events. In fact, the farm now uses disease resistant seed bred over time by Rutgers University.
Previous NRCS restoration efforts targeted the creation of oyster reefs using bagged shell (cultch) set with spat (baby oysters). “The goal of the effort is to increase the native oyster population, providing essential oyster reef habitat to benefit a wide variety of aquatic organisms, and improve water quality.” (2009 NRCS News release) The long term goal of these projects hopes to establish self-propagating reefs for future wild recruitment. In 2008 the NRCS allocated $792,000 dollars to six farmers who produced approximately 2.7 million oysters, at a cost of .29 cents per oyster. These efforts have been funded again for 2015, with none occurring in Narragansett Bay. While these programs establish reef creation, they DO NOT guarantee the creation of an adult biomass capable of recurring spawn events. The Poppasquash Oyster farm in its unique management practices and geographic location, does, and is the very reason for the 2011 award.
These facts, combined with recent interest and involvement with schools looking for access to the farm have re-ignited my belief that there may be a greater good to come from my 17 year endeavor. I humbly ask for your financial consideration in this matter in the cause I have outlined above. As importantly, I ask your consideration in passing along this time sensitive message to others you think may enjoy the story, science, benefits, and the opportunity for a small farm to have a large and lasting beneficial effect in both the community and public resource of Narragansett Bay.