Dockside Aquaculture

Rhode Island coastal homeowners can now grow, eat and enjoy their own oysters thanks to Roger Williams University’s dockside aquaculture program. Registration for a summer course offering provides local residents with the knowledge, tools and official license to safely farm oysters on their waterfront property.

Launched in 2013 with a new approval process for recreational oyster farming led by the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), the RWU dockside aquaculture package includes the required education, equipment and seed oysters to start growing oysters so that approved dock owners can begin raising oysters in September and harvest them by the next fall.

The following information outlines who can participate and how the dockside aquaculture program works:

  • First, the program is limited to individuals who own CRMC-registered docks located in Rhode Island waters approved by the Department of Environmental Management for “the taking of shellfish for human consumption.” Visit www.dem.ri.gov/maps/mapfile/shellfsh.pdf for maps of approved / prohibited waters.
  • For those with docks in approved waters, the CRMC licensing procedure requires that participants complete a recreational shellfish aquaculture course that covers topics including oyster biology, growout systems, predation/disease risks, and permitting and regulations. To allow aspiring farmers to fulfill this requirement, the University offers a Recreational Shellfish Farming course.
  • The course culminates in a completed Recreational Aquaculture Application, which RWU will submit to the CRMC in August to obtain the recreational aquaculture license.
  • Once the license has been acquired, each participant receives a set of growout equipment tailored to his or her dock configuration, location and exposure to weather.
  • After installation (likely in the fall) participants receive 2,000 one-inch seed oysters to raise in the growout gear provided by RWU.
  • With good management and careful tending over the next year, a healthy percentage of the oysters should be appropriately sized for consumption by the next fall.

Roger Williams University offers the total dockside aquaculture package – course registration, guidance through the application process, submission of the application, gear required to grow the oysters, and 2,000 seed oysters – for a total cost of $1,500. A portion of the proceeds ($1,000) is a tax-deductible, charitable contribution to RWU and will be used to underwrite applied research associated with the University's two-acre experimental aquaculture site located on the Eastern shore of campus in the Mount Hope Bay. The focus of this work includes:

  • expanding support for start-up companies testing products to advance shellfish aquaculture in the region;
  • expansion of the suite of shellfish species appropriate for commercial culture (e.g., blue mussels, razor clams and surf clams);
  • continued development and evaluation of new technologies to improve culture success for existing farmers in the region, and;
  • expanding our education capacity to a national audience through development of online educational resources for shellfish farmers.

For questions or additional information on the program, email cfrancis@rwu.edu or call (401) 254-3110.

Register for RWU's dockside aquaculture program.