Come June, marine biology major Arianna Helger ’23 will become the fifth generation of her family to run its seafood business.
A full-time student and president of the Student Alumni Association, Helger has been hauling shellfish in Narragansett Bay since childhood for her family’s business, Helger’s Bridgeport Seafood, a market in Tiverton. She’ll begin running the business alongside her father in June.
Helger intended to go into business after graduating from Tiverton High School but her mother, a teacher, encouraged her to look into URI’s marine biology program to gain the education to complement the on-the-job experience she’d gained growing up.
Helger says the marine biology program has given her a broader context for understanding coastal issues around the world and an in-depth understanding of fish physiology, human influence, and the full scope of creatures and regions of the sea beyond Narragansett Bay. “It also has given me a lot of random nerdy facts about fish physiology to share at the market,” she says. She’ll head to Bermuda for spring break to study underwater photography and film.
Helger’s perspective on seafood’s business side has also given her a different point of view in the classroom. She can readily speak to the challenges that arise for those in the fishing industry when regulations are put in place to prevent overfishing and other issues. “Fishing is important for our economy and sustainability,” she says. “I can speak to both the fishing and commercial side.”
Helger’s market sells locally sourced wholesale and retail seafood, including quahogs that Helger harvests in the lower Providence River. Helger’s great-great-grandmother started the original market in 1937.
Helger will work with customers, wholesalers, and agencies like the Rhode Island Department of Health. The shop sells saltwater fish, everything from Arctic char and bay scallops to swordfish and striped bass, drawing customers from as far away as New Zealand.
Helger’s work on the Student Alumni Association, an organization that connects students to URI alums, allowed her to develop her leadership skills further. “It’s also been a great way to make friends,” Helger says. “It’s like a family.”
Kassie Patatanes, Student Alumni Association program manager, praises Helger’s leadership. “With a busy course load, volunteer work, and involvement in SAA, Arianna has proven herself to be an amazing student leader in her time at URI. Her passion and dedication shine through her work both on and off campus.”
“I have loved URI,” Helger says. “Experiences working in marine biology labs and on the trawler boat have been cool. And the faculty are helpful and approachable; the professors are so knowledgeable and open.”
“URI’s program has been great to get me set up for my next chapter at our seafood business.”