Island Creek Oysters, Inc., an aquaculture farm based out of Duxbury, Mass., and the city of New Bedford held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 31, to announce the opening of the Island Creek Cannery, a first-of-its-kind cannery on the East Coast.
The facility will be 10,000 sq. feet located on 38 Blackmer St., adjacent to Fleet Fisheries Inc. They plan to create an opportunity for shellfish farmers to have consistent access to the market while also providing shelf-stable, nutritious lines of local value-driven seafood products. The facility's operators say that it will help address oversupply by ensuring adequate processing capacity during fluctuations in the market, shoring up prices for farmers, reducing waste, and creating new jobs from processors to marketing experts.
Founded in the early 1990s by Skip Bennett, Island Creek Oyster was rooted in the growth of quahogs in Duxbury Bay. After many oysters and trial and error, Island Creek Oysters grew into one of the largest and most reputable aquaculture businesses in the US. Through the company’s 27-year journey, they have diversified into many aspects of the aquaculture industry.
They now consist of a headquarters, shellfish hatchery, R&D center, shellfish farms, wholesale distribution, e-commerce, retail, and hospitality businesses. More background on the company can be found here.
Mayor Jon Mitchell stated in an article, “This is a unique business in the U.S., and New Bedford is the right place to open it up. We are hands down the highest-grossing fishing port in the U.S. We have the largest seafood processing base in the United States. We are to seafood what Omaha is to beef.”
The city of New Bedford is thrilled to support the new cannery and have Island Creek Oyster create more jobs within the community. Christopher Sherman, CEO of Island Creek Oyster, said that the company is “over the moon to be part of this historic community.”
A grant from the Food Security Infrastructure can be credited for making the cannery possible. According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the grant’s goal will be to provide equitable access to food produced locally.
In Europe, the market has been long saturated with tinned seafood products to provide peak freshness. Within the Spanish conservas tradition, shellfish and fish are preserved in olive oil, brine, and other sauces and then tinned to offer a gourmet experience to consumers. Island Creek Oyster is bringing that tradition to the East Coast to provide harvesters and fishermen’s catch an option to be more self-stable. Sherman shared that though this product may be fancy, the prices will not.
The company looks forward to partnering with Coastal Foodshed, a non-profit group that provides local produce to the Greater New Bedford and Fall River communities.