October 21, 2016

Whitehouse Lauds RI’s Growing Aquaculture Industry at Matunuck Oyster Farm

Whitehouse is a national champion for protecting ocean resources, coastal businesses

East Matunuck, RI – Ocean and environmental champion U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse this morning toured the Matunuck Oyster Farm by boat, guided by sustainable aquaculture expert and restaurateur Perry Raso.  Whitehouse waded into Potter Pond for a hands-on lesson in oyster farming.

“The word is out across the country that Rhode Island has some of the world’s best oysters,” said Whitehouse.  “Our growing aquaculture industry, including the thriving Matunuck Oyster Farm and Matunuck Oyster Bar, is a key reason why I’m fighting to curb carbon dioxide emissions causing climate change.  That carbon pollution is absorbed by our oceans, acidifying the water and over time, upsetting the delicate balance oysters need to grow.  Protecting the ocean is protecting our economy and way of life in Rhode Island.”

The Matunuck Oyster Farm annually produces over one million market-sized oysters that are sold at Raso’s Matunuck Oyster Bar, and farmers markets and restaurants locally and across the country.  In the warmer months, the restaurant, oyster farm, and Raso’s nearby vegetable farm collectively employ more than 200 Rhode Islanders.

“Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production business in the world,” said Perry Raso, owner of the Matunuck Oyster Farm.  “As aquaculturists, we rely on our pristine bays and estuaries to grow our products and the process of growing our products contributes to the health of our waters.  We are honored to have Senator Whitehouse at Matunuck Oyster Farm and appreciate his advocacy for our industry.”

Whitehouse is one of the leading voices for protecting ocean resources in Congress.  He is a co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus, which promotes creative policy solutions that support oceans and coasts, and the people and economies that rely on them.  Whitehouse also serves as the Ranking Democratic Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife which helps oversee the implementation of laws governing clean water.

Whitehouse helped draft and pass in the Senate a reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act, which would improve water infrastructure and combat lead contamination in drinking water.  He also led legislation authorizing a new federal program to carry out projects that would enhance ocean and coastal ecosystem resiliency and reauthorizing the National Estuary Program, and has worked to raise awareness of the harms of plastics and other debris in our oceans.  Last year, President Obama signed Whitehouse’s legislation establishing a permanent fund to support oceans and coastal research, restoration, and conservation. 

In 2015, more than 8 million Rhode Island oysters were sold for consumption and the number of people employed by aquaculture farms in the state increased by 20 percent, according to the Rhode Island Coastal Management Resources Council. 


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921