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BRISTOL - Coastal homeowners can now grown and harvest their own oysters with the help of a new program at Roger Williams University.
Individuals who own Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) registered docks located in Rhode Island waters that are approved by the Department of Environmental Management for harvesting shellfish for human consumption, are eligible to participate in the program.
With a new recreational aquaculture license form CRMC and training, equipment and oysters from Roger Williams University, approved dock owners can be farming oysters by the fall.
Roger Williams is beginning the training portion of its dockside aquaculture package this Saturday, July 20. The package includes the required education, equipment and seed oysters to begin farming operations.
While program participants will be charged a fee, the fee will be used to support the restoration of Rhode Islandâ€™s natural oyster population through Roger Williams Universityâ€™s Oyster Gardening for Restoration and Enhancement program.
â€śIt has generated a lot of interest,â€ť said Tim Scott, a professor of marine biology at Roger Williams and director of the Roger Williams Center for Economic and Environmental Development, which runs the oyster gardening program.
â€śItâ€™s a really neat thing to do and we put this package together, which is part fundraising, to make it very easy for people to participate,â€ť Scott said.
The program includes three Saturday classes, July 20, July 27 and Aug. 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., which will constitute the training for the recreational oyster farmers.
At the end of the course, participants can complete a recreational aquaculture application, which Roger Williams University will submit to CRMC in August to obtain the appropriate recreational aquaculture license.
Once the license is acquired, each participant will receive a set of growout equipment tailored to his or her dock configuration, location and exposure to weather.
â€śItâ€™s actually really cool having the ability to grow some oysters at your dock and then go down and harvest them for dinner,â€ť Scott said.
This is the first time Roger Williams University has run the program, according to Scott. He said they would run it even if only five people sign up.
â€śBut weâ€™re hoping for a lot more,â€ť he said. â€śI think as people learn about it, they will become interested.â€ť
Scott said heâ€™s received a lot of inquires, but isnâ€™t sure how many people have signed up for the program.
Either way, Scott said he hopes the program will continue in the future.
â€śItâ€™s something that might take time to build,â€ť he said. â€śWeâ€™ll start this year and do again next year. This year weâ€™re only doing oysters, but weâ€™d like to add new species in future, quahogs and scallops, it will be a regular smorgasbord.â€ť
Scott said the recreational oyster cultivation program grew out of the Oyster Gardening for Restoration and Enhancement program, which has been ongoing for the last eight to 10 years.
He said more than 100 people have participated in that program each year.
â€śWhat weâ€™re talking about volunteers dock owners around state who are given young oysters to take care of them over summer, purely for restoration,â€ť Scott said. â€śThey bring them back in fall and we plant them in specific locations around [Narragansett] Bay. Until now, the only way to grow oysters is starting in our hatchery and every year weâ€™re planting 500,000 oysters around the Bay. What state has done is add this other twist to it where now you can grown [oysters] at your dock instead of having to give them back. You now have the ability to keep and eat them.â€ť
Roger Williams University will offer the total dockside aquaculture package, which includes course registration, guidance through the application process, submission of the application, gear required to grow the oysters and 2,000 seed oysters, for a total cost of $2,500. A portion of the fee - $2,000 â€“ is a tax deductible, charitable contribution to Roger Williams University and will be put toward the oyster gardening program.
To register for the program, visit http://onlinecommunity.rwu.edu/oysters2013. For questions or additional information on the program, call (401) 254-3110.