State officials in Massachusetts are considering revising farmers’ market regulations to allow the expanded sale of shellfish at local markets. The revised rules would allow shellfish, such as shrimp and oysters, to be sold alongside tomatoes, corn, and blueberries in local markets. While the state has begun tentative pilot programs allowing the sale of shellfish, new rules would drastically expand sale, making shellfish a common part of farmers’ markets in Massachusetts.
While shellfish might seem out of place in a farmers’ market typically dominated by produce, aquaculture is recognized by the Department of Agriculture as a form of farming. The USDA defines aquaculture as the production of aquatic animals under controlled conditions for most of their lifecycle. Currently, aquaculture is a nearly $1 billion industry nationwide. According to the most recent USDA census, the value of Massachusetts’ aquacultural products was over $9 million annually.
Proponents of the new regulations argue that it will not only give consumers a more direct link to their food, but would allow individuals who typically cannot afford restaurant style shellfish a chance to enjoy Massachusetts seafood. The expanded rules, however, also come with significant regulations. Give the human health hazards posed by undercooked shellfish and poorly produced shellfish, the state is currently considering significant restrictions and regulations. Most important would be temperature controls and a tractability requirement that would allow officials to suspend shellfish sales in regions impacted by red tide or other health concerns.
While sales are currently modest, some aquaculturists are optimistic that increased visibility will increase their sales.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer