Doug loved to fish. Dan loved to farm. They both loved living and working along the coast of Brunswick. They started talking one day on the Brunswick playing fields and the seeds were planted – oyster seeds, that is. As Brunswick’s Marine Warden, Dan had been looking for ways to improve local shellfish populations and degraded near shore ecosystems. Doug had been looking for new ventures on the water and ways to give back to the community. As their boys threw the ball together, they tossed around ideas. They both wanted their sons to grow up loving the coast of Maine as much as they do and to have opportunities to stay here and make a living. They were also both committed to protecting the valuable marine resources they knew and loved. Dan started experimenting with shellfish farming as a way to replenish the locally harvested populations that had been hit hard with changes in water conditions and predation by invasive species like the green crab. Doug was serving on Brunswick’s Rivers and Coastal Waters Commission and was blown away by how quickly he could grow oysters in just a few bags off his dock.
Oysters seemed like the perfect species to work with. For starters, they provide amazing environmental benefits they to the marine ecosystem. A single oyster filters as much as 50 gallons of seawater a day, making the water cleaner and clearer so that other marine species can thrive. They also don’t take up much space. You can grow around 10,000 oysters in just 400 square feet. And, oyster gear provides an excellent source of habitat for numerous marine species. In a busy waterfront area, it’s important to fit into the bigger picture. Finally, there just aren’t enough of them out there. American oysters, Crassostrea virginica, have been in Maine for hundreds of years. There used to be so many of them that you can still find heaps of shells left by the Wabanaki people. But, in the 1970s, oyster populations plummeted as a result of pollution and environmental change. Farming oysters offered an opportunity to restore the native population and enhance near shore marine ecosystems.
Then, in 2015, Doug and Dan officially formed Mere Point Oyster Company (MPOC). They chose to site their farms where they live – in the clear, deep waters of Maquoit and Mere Point Bays. These bays are some of Maine’s most ecologically significant areas because of the rich marine life they support. They started with 10,000 oysters the first year and added another 10,000 in 2016. They sold the first oysters directly to people out on Mere Point, storing their gear in Doug’s barn, which has become MPOC’s head quarters. People loved that the oysters were grown right there. In 2017, they added another 250,000 oysters and now had enough to sell to The Brunswick Inn and Monstweag Restaurant in Woolwich. This year, they opened a booth at the Brunswick Farmer’s Market at Crystal Springs Farm. As the oyster crop continues to grow, they hope to expand to more restaurants and markets. And, they will be experimenting with growing other types of shellfish including mussels and scallops.
From the very beginning, Mere Point Oyster Company has been a local business committed to their local community. Their seed comes from Maine hatcheries and the seafood retailers and suppliers they work with are all based in Maine too. It’s all part of their mission to support working waterfronts along the coast by providing new sustainable opportunities for coastal residents and younger generations. That’s why you will find Dan out in the mud flats teaching Brunswick students about how clams grow and Doug teaching his sons how to manage the family business.
Enhancing local ecosystems and supporting working waterfront communities are laudable goals, but in the end it’s all about taste – fresh, clean and sweet. Only 40% of the oysters they grow are high enough in quality to be called a Mere Point Oyster. They hand sort them to make sure.