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Help for the sea harvest

Harvest season is slowing down for farmers of the land. The hot weather crops are in, and most of the outdoor farmers markets that provided easy access to fresh, local produce all summer are packing away the tables and tents. The markets were a bright spot in the pandemic summer just by being themselves: outdoor vendors of a necessity of life, conveniently located in many local communities.

On the sea and the waterways, an equally vital harvest goes on. Commercial fishing is a venerable industry operating year-round from Connecticut harbors, including Stonington and New London. Aquaculture — the farming of shellfish, in particular — is a growing industry for the state that, like agriculture, provides both locally sourced protein and a variety of jobs. This year more than ever, Connecticut and this region in particular need both of those to continue and prosper.

So it is welcome news from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that Connecticut has received $1.8 million from the CARES Act Assistance to Fishery Participants program. The CARES act is the umbrella legislation for assistance to businesses and organizations affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Assistance to Fishery Participants program determined the funding for the state.

This is the second of two recently announced federal grants that will assist shellfish farmers, who were excluded from the first round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The state Bureau of Aquaculture and Connecticut Sea Grant, based at UConn's Avery Point campus in Groton, worked with them last spring to expand their direct-to-consumer sales models in an effort to keep the industry alive. The industry also appealed its ineligibility to U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, who argued on its behalf. They became eligible in September.

Fisheries and aquaculture, like dairy and produce farming in Connecticut, tend to be small business operations with a few commercial fishing boats or a few farmed underwater acres, but as a part of the food chain their products affect jobs in restaurants, wholesale markets and retail stores. They will play key roles in getting us through the pandemic's winter months.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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