Program Offers A Lifeline To Fishermen, And A Home For Unwanted Oysters

Oyster farmer Bruce Silverbrand, left, and coastal program manager for the Nature Conservancy, Steven Kirk, at Little Buttermilk Bay in Buzzards Bay. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Standing on a cold, wet beach, Bruce Silverbrand rummages through a metal basket of oysters. He picks out a huge one — almost as big as a mitten, with a knobbed and lumpy shell. It’s what people in the shellfish industry call a “big ugly,” though Silverbrand abhors the term.

“I would never call an oyster ugly — these are my babies,” he says. He considers the monster in his hand for a moment, turning it over for a good look. “This is not a bad looking oyster, really, for a big oyster.”

Silverbrand runs the Buttermilk Bay Oyster Company in Bourne. He’s been a shellfisherman his whole adult life — about 30 years — but he started growing oysters just a few years ago. This was the year they were going to turn the corner, he says. Then came COVID-19.

“The beginning of this year, we sold 28,000 oysters in a matter 10 weeks,” he says.  We were really rolling. And then all of a sudden the COVID comes and, you know — it stops everything.”

Read the rest of the story at WBUR’s website.