By Chris Bergenheim
SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. – The University of Rhode Island received $745,815 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for its Rhode Island Sea Grant program, the R.I congressional delegation [including Rep. Jim Langevin] announced Thursday evening.
The funds will be used to strengthen training programs for entry-level aquaculture workers in Rhode Island and support the development of an online training curriculum that could be deployed nationally.
The in-person training will include initiatives to improve aquaculture worker safety, promote critical skills and boost employee recruitment and retention.
The URI Rhode Island Sea Grant Extension supports the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries by providing scientific and research-based data to public- and private-sector entities.
The grant will also support a pilot program to train both in-person and online instructors in select states.
“Year after year, Rhode Island’s aquaculture industry continues to grow, producing jobs as well as high-value seafood that’s enjoyed up and down the East Coast. This new federal grant will expand job-training opportunities and help Rhode Island continue to cultivate homegrown businesses,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said in a statement.
The state’s 73 shellfish farms sold more than 8.4 million oysters in 2017, accounting for the bulk of Rhode Island’s aquaculture exports, according to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council. Aquaculture farms in the state also grow clams, scallops and mussels.