Tucked away in a small town on the Eastern Shore, a fish project has been forming. You may say that isn’t unusual, given Virginia’s Eastern Shore’s proximity to ocean water. The peninsula frames the western side of the Chesapeake Bay, and is shared by Virginia and Maryland. Life seems to be simpler there, and hospitality abounds with the agrarian and sea-faring locals.
The town of Quinby resides in Accomack County, the upper half of Virginia’s portion of the Eastern Shore. The population as of the 2010 US Census was 282, nestled among flat fields and waving sea grasses. On the eastern border of Quinby, Mid-Atlantic Aquatic Technologies (MAAT) has been perfecting fish farming with Black Sea Bass, native to Eastern U.S. waters, noted for their firm texture and delicate flavor. Chris Bentley is the Farm Manager with MAAT, and has been involved in aquaculture for 14 years, starting at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He became interested in Black Sea Bass while at UNC-W, which led to a partnership and eventually the formation of his current job with MAAT. Chris is gentle with a gracious demeanor, and led the VALOR Class II fellows around the facility and land while we gained immense details regarding his pursuit of the commercialization of Black Sea Bass.
First we viewed the systems for bringing in ocean water for the fish, and then transitioned to a warehouse facility with what looked like high tunnels inside. Inside each insulated tunnel there were ponds and systems for the fish, from juveniles to full-grown adults. Chris explained each section and system carefully, taking time to answer our many questions.
Personally, I had never experienced fish farming and aquaculture. The deep-seated passion that Chris demonstrated for the fish was evident in the care of the physical surroundings at MAAT. Chris, like a true farmer, indicated that a bit of stubbornness was what kept him going, through both the trials and the opportunities. I was struck by his dedication, and personally challenged by his passions for his aquatic pursuit.
The next time you go to a restaurant, carefully check the menu, because Chris is dedicated to bringing Black Sea Bass to a table near you!