On the rebound, N.E. oysters face climate threat

He’s under pressure to harvest on this mid-February day to make an on-time afternoon delivery to a local raw bar. On-board, he’s trying to impress a top chef from one of Newport’s most exclusive restaurants – and his pontoon boat is stuck in a field of slushy ice not even halfway out into the lagoon where he grows oysters.

“Everything going wrong – I’d say that’s a pretty typical day,” Opton-Himmel jokes, just moments before part of the outboard engine broke off, sinking into the icy water.

As New England’s waters have become cleaner in recent decades, growers like Opton-Himmel have seeded the coast with oyster farms. As their efforts start to bear fruit, the ocean impacts of climate change may test the mettle of the burgeoning industry.

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