From DC to NYC RI Oysters are Turning Heads

The last couple of days in Washington DC were completely different than my day to day work life; it gave me an alternative perspective on politics in the USA, and helped me realize how important the people’s voices are when put to the proper audience.

Senator Whitehouse enjoying the Quonset Point oysters

Senator Whitehouse enjoying the Quonset Point oysters

The trip to DC was sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental NGO, lobbying for support of the North East Regional Ocean Plan which aims to map out the federal waters of the United Sates, up to 200 miles from shore. Our role in this group of stake holders including; wind farms, shipping companies, sailors, and fishermen, was promoters of offshore aquaculture. It was exciting to be with this group, and to be part of the conversation about ocean planning at such a high level of government.

Left to right: Greg Silkes, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, Mason Silkes ~ Talking aquaculture in DC

Left to right: Greg Silkes, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, Mason Silkes

Walking on the “Hill”, and meeting with Rhode Island’s senators and congressmen was great because of the voices of support we heard in every office both for the ocean plan, and aquaculture as a part of it. Our representatives in Washington were more than happy to meet with us, and took time out of their busy schedules to chat about this plan, and listen to our opinions on the matter. This was intriguing to me because I was always of the mind that politics in DC moved like molasses, nobody cared about the little guy, and your voice would not be heard when you spoke. Not true. It is a slow moving train, but there are thousands of issues that are being hashed out in the marble halls of the capitol building, and the people voting are removed from the who, what, where and why of the matter. This, I learned, is the most important reason to be down there representing yourself and your industry. Or more simply put by Beth Casoni from MA Lobstermen’s Association “if you’re not at the table you’re on the plate.”

RI Oysters shucked at the White House

Quonset Points at the White House

Sometimes the best time to talk about the politics is at an evening reception with a few beers in you and some of your home grown oysters on the plate. I think the Quonset Points were a real hit at Tuesday night’s soiree in the capitol building, and proved that aquaculture is a delicious industry that needs to be supported/promoted at a federal level. A huge thanks to the folks at the Ocean Conservancy for organizing the fly in, all the meetings, and any other detail that the stakeholders didn’t even need to think about.

On another note this coming Thursday our oysters will be representing our company again at the annual Billion Oyster Party in Brooklyn, New York. This event is a fundraiser for a project aiming to restore New York Harbor’s historic oyster population with the help of local school kids. The oysters in the harbor are strictly used to filter the water and create habitat for other marine organisms, not human consumption. The scale is increasing with each year, and now teachers from any school in NYC can adopt the curriculum for their own classroom. The idea is to connect kids with the oyster heritage of the area, and engage them with real life lessons while they accomplish the goal of repopulating the harbor with oysters.

Billion Oyster Project students

Billion Oyster Project Schools and Citizen Science in Action

The event is also increasing in scale each year, and this year will host over 40 oyster farms from around the country to serve their finest products and have a lot of fun doing it. Salt Water Farms is happy to have been there the past couple years and we look forward to this event each coming year.  The BOP will continue to grow until the shores of Manhattan are covered in oyster reefs, and the water is as clean as when Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed through!

~ Mason Silkes


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