Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Tracey Dalton


The shellfish aquaculture industry in the US has been steadily growing in recent years and demand is particularly high for oysters grown in New England. In 2010, the shellfish aquaculture industry on the US East Coast was worth $100 million, with over 1000 shellfish farms in operation. Because shellfish aquaculture can provide jobs, economic growth and environmental benefits, it is in the interest of coastal states to manage this industry effectively.

Shellfish aquaculture is growing quickly in both RI and MA, but the way in which the states manage the industry differs in the levels of state and local involvement. RI is managed with a state run system, while MA allows local municipalities to have authority over shellfish aquaculture in their towns. The purpose of this study is to examine stakeholder perceptions of different levels of state and local involvement in managing shellfish aquaculture and to understand stakeholder’s attitudes towards the different management systems in RI and MA.

Fifteen officials and farmers, involved in varying levels of management, were interviewed during the summer and fall of 2015. Respondents were asked about their experiences with shellfish aquaculture and their feelings about many aspects of the management system, such as regulations and permitting, as well as relationships among stakeholders. Interviews were transcribed and coded into themes and subcategories.

The results of this study indicate that both states have areas for improvement. However, respondents in RI seemed to have a more positive attitude towards the management system than respondents in MA. The management system in MA is more complex and needs some updating; while in RI, there is a need to examine the engagement of a wider group of stakeholders in management processes and decisions.

Overall, the involvement of municipalities in management in MA allows for the opportunity for local interests to be incorporated into management. It also can help build relationships among farmers and officials and between farmers and the local communities. While the more streamlined system in RI offers a less complex and more approachable structure than MA, it can sometimes leave local communities feeling like they have no control over what happens in waters adjacent to their towns. Both states would benefit from evaluating the roles that other stakeholder groups, such as local communities and recreational groups, should play in management. Having a meaningful way for stakeholders to voice their opinions might result in less conflict among users and allow for continued growth of the shellfish aquaculture industry.



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