James Morris: Oyster Farm
by Marlen Paredes
If someone told you to close your eyes and imagine a farm, what would you think? Green pastures? Maybe a cow or two? Would the ocean with crates of oysters tied together with rope and zip ties come to mind? Probably not. But that is exactly what it is– an oyster farm, along the eastern coast of North Carolina, is one of few oyster farms in the area. Today we visited an oyster farm belonging to James Morris, an associate professor at Duke University and ecologist for NOOA in the NCCOS Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research. Learning about aquaculture in the class was a new experience that really just unveiled a part of the food system that I had never thought of. People from all over have different perspectives on farming, with overgrazing being a huge issue, but aquaculture seems to be something that has gained less popularity in the U.S. With half of the world’s production of fish now being produced by aquaculture it is important to notice how this industry will be increasing its impacting on the future of the seafood diet. Along those same lines the United States imports 91% of its seafood, most of it from Asia. I didn’t realize that it was that high, but the U.S also is the country with the most ocean rights, an exclusive economic zone or EEZ that is 200 nautical miles, compared to every other country in the world. Is it really logical to be so behind in global production? Of course being able to grow an industry brings on a whole new set of challenges, one where there seems to always be winners and losers. Whether aquaculture in the U.S. brings forward more solutions or problems is a question that will be left unanswered until this country starts to take it seriously. As serious as changing your whole perspective of farming, who knows, but it might be time to see how that change is possible. There is still a lot left for me to learn and about aquaculture but for now during my time here in North Carolina I can say I shucked (cut open) my first ever oyster and ate it in less than 2 minutes!