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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Water Ways: Mid-Atlantic Maritime Communities

Aquaculture

Shellfish Farming:
Clam, Crab, and Oyster Aquaculture

Aquaculture is "fish farming," the practice of raising a particular species in a controlled aquatic environment. As open-water fishing in the Mid-Atlantic declines because of over-fishing, pollution, and shellfish diseases, aquaculture has become more important in research and restoration efforts and in producing fish for market.

Soft-shell crabbing is one of the oldest forms of aquaculture in the Mid-Atlantic. In places like Smith Island and Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay, whole families are involved in watching over blue crabs as they reach the molting stage. Soft crabs are considered a delicacy and command a higher price than hard crabs.

Clam aquaculture on the Eastern Shore of Virginia has become a multimillion-dollar industry. Clam hatcheries resemble movie-set laboratories with bubbling vats full of baby-clam food. Home "gardening" of oysters is growing in popularity, with several companies selling waterfront home owners the equipment to raise oysters for the table.

Until recently, blue crabs have not been successfully hatched and raised in captivity. Scientists at the University of Maryland's Center of Marine Biology have made breakthroughs and are hopeful that their efforts can help replenish the declining stocks of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay.

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