Women on the Waterfront

Barbara Scully: Marine biologist and aquaculture pioneer

Thu, 04/28/2022 - 8:45am

On the anniversary of the 60th year celebrating Windjammers Days and maritime history, we pay homage to our founder, Captain Marion Dash for her contribution as a female role model in our maritime community. It is her legacy that has inspired the Friends of Windjammer Days to celebrate the women who are working on the waterfront today who in turn inspire young girls and future maritime generations to come.

Mention the name Barbara Scully up and down the Maine coast and you will receive a nod of admiration for the marine biologist turned aquaculture pioneer. 

Barb Scully has been growing oysters for over 35 years on the Maine estuary.  She founded Glidden Point Oyster Sea Farm in 1987 and turned it into a successful business with a national reputation for quality.  At its height, Glidden Point Oyster grew more than 10 million oysters per year which were sold all over the US and in Canada. Barb sold the business in 2016 but still keeps her feet wet cultivating her own oysters on a smaller farm, harvesting wild shellfish, and gill-netting for menhaden. Barb was instrumental in the resurgence of oysters in Maine recognizing that the Damariscotta River was full of nutrients to grow desirable oysters. 

Over the years, she has indeed perfected her techniques, many of which are commonly used by new members of the oyster industry today. “It was a big science project that grew and grew and now has taken over my life,” Barb remarked. Through experimentation, she recognized early in her career that holding shellfish in a storage raft prior to shipping enhances their quality. Barb designed her own oyster rafts to flush the oysters with colder sea water which purges them of grit. The process results in a cleaner and better tasting oyster.

Early on, Barb brought her two children onboard to help.  Part necessity, part good parenting, she had the foresight to see the life lessons hands on work teaches children. The three worked together and shared in the pride of the growing business. Her kids are adults themselves now. She reflects, “I'm grateful for every minute I have spent with my kids.  I've raised two very good people that I'm pleased to present to the world and they're off doing wonderful things.”

Her positive influence goes beyond her own children. Over the years, she's hired scores of teenagers.  Others in the industry affectionately referred to her summer season as “oyster camp,” but Barb appreciated how work on the waterfront can teach life skills including problem-solving, independence and confidence.  “I got to teach good kids important things.  I like to think I raised a lot of teenagers, not just oysters.  The kids mattered so much more,” she said. 

Barb has now turned her focus on mentoring a new set of young people to take over her retail business Scully Sea Products where they sell her boutique oysters along with lobsters, clams and all the fixings. It is a favorite stop for both locals and visitors alike.

The motto on the side of the store seems fitting: ‘If you are lucky enough to live by the sea, then you are lucky enough.’ A steward of oysters, kids, community and environment, Barb Scully has mastered putting goodness out into the world.