Visitor numbers up at Boston aquaculture event despite government shutdown

Liza Mayer
January 11, 2019
By
The biennial Northeast Aquaculture Conference & Exposition (NACE) in Boston, Massachusetts concluded on a high note on Friday with higher attendance numbers than the previous edition despite the partial government shutdown.

“The aquaculture industry is growing and there’s been phenomenal interest. The biggest problem has been the absence of some of our key speakers, but despite the difficulties with the shutdown it’s been a great turnout,” said Chris Davis of the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, who led the organizing committee.

Among the roughly 575 participants, 50 were federal employees who couldn’t attend. These included staff of the Milford Laboratory, which convenes the Milford Aquaculture Seminar (MAS) with NACE.

“We estimate we would have had roughly 15 percent increase in the number of attendees if the federal  employees  were here. Some were presenting. But they can’t answer emails, answer the phone. It was difficult for planning purposes but the shutdown really severed the connection,” said Davis.

The conference brings together producers, service providers, vendors, researchers, students and managers from across the northeast region to discuss pressing issues and relevant research on aquaculture. Over 30 exhibitors displayed the latest innovations in seafood farming, particularly shellfish.

Climate science and ocean acidification were at the forefront of conference topics and the sessions were very well attended. Maine State climatologist Sean Birkel gave the lunch crowd a look at plausible future climate scenarios well into 2050 during his keynote address. Despite “depressing” data showing rising sea levels and warming temperatures, the good news is humans can adapt to a changing environment but just as “we are having a significant impact on global climate system and environment, we can also minimize the worse outcomes in the future,” he said.

The abundance of new products and innovations was evident throughout the event. Not only were there intensive dialogs at the trade fair stands, participants discussed and witnessed industry trends and market developments at the knowledge seminars.

Interest in oyster farm equipment was high, with the session “Down on the Oyster Farm: Graders, Tumblers and Solar Power” seeing a standing-room-only crowd. Technology suppliers discussed the latest production equipment  and the benefits and drawbacks of their usage.

A session on oyster marketing to the European market was also well attended, in anticipation of the opportunities that will open up upon the resumption of shellfish trade between the US and the European Union.  “We’ve had great conversations with shellfish farmers here. This is a new initiative for us; now that there’s aquaculture operations within the northeast region that have sizeable enough production for the export market, we though it makes sense to reach out to the aquaculture industry,” said Colleen Coyne, seafood program coordinator of the USDA-funded Food Export USA. The non-profit organization promotes the export of food and agricultural products from the United States.

The NACE/MAS Aquaculture Conference will be held in 2021.

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