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COVID-19 help for Maine oyster farmers

When the pandemic hit, many oyster farmers were affected because restaurants weren't buying oysters.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — It seems like just about every industry has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and that includes oyster farms. But thanks to the support of an oyster aquaculture restoration program, about 15 farms in Maine will be getting some relief including Ferda Farms out of Brunswick.

On Saturday, Ferda Farms sold more than 18,000 oysters to The Nature Conservancy for $10,000.

Dr. Alix Laferriere is the Marine Director for The Nature Conservancy. She says it's important to support oyster farms because at the start of the pandemic, "the restaurants pretty much shuttered and stopped and so the oyster markets dried up."

Ferda Farms is a father-son business, they started farming oysters two yearsa go.

"We've been really trying to push the boundaries on how to do things better and more efficiently," 21-year-old Maxwell Burtis said.

He added that while they have been loving spending time out on the water, the last few months have been challenging.

"We've been sitting on a lot of product, yeah. we haven't been able to move as much volume and also our price per oyster has been on average a little lower," he said.

That's where The Nature Conservancy steps in, and it's not just positive for the farmers.

"Oysters create this amazing habit and they filter water and they're ecological workhorses," Laferriere said.

Now, these oysters are going to New Hampshire and go back in the water for a conservation benefit.

"It's win-win. It's a win for the farmers because they're getting money in hand for their beautiful product and it's good for the environment," Laferriere added.

The Nature Conservancy will be buying oysters from oyster farmers like Ferda Farms in seven states across the northeast to help with COVID-19 relief.