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Shellfish Advisory Panel Reviews Three Aquaculture Lease Proposals

As posted on TraceyC-Media. Shellfish Advisory Panel Reviews Three Aquaculture Lease Proposals

Ninigret oysterJamestown – Wednesday’s meeting of the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council’s Shellfish Advisory Panel (SAP) had three aquaculture lease proposals under consideration. Held at the Fort Wetherill Marine Laboratory, the panel voted no objection to the Point Judith Pond proposal of Ian Campbell; Ninigret Pond proposal of Brian Pinsky; and Quonochontaug Pond proposal of Jim Arnoux for East Beach Farms.

Aquaculture involves the breeding, rearing and harvesting of plants and animals in a water environment, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). All three leases under review involved oyster farming, with Pinsky and Arnoux choosing the rack and bag system of farming over Campbell’s consideration of bottom culturing, cage and bag.

Pinsky’s Ninigret Pond proposal drew the council’s attention, as the pond is currently home to seven aquaculture leases. Discussion revolved around the duality in use of the pond with commercial fishermen and recreational users sharing space.

“We’re here to review three leases to see if there’s any conflict with wild harvest fisheries on the lease. That’s the purview of this body, the marine fisheries council,  to see if there are any conflicts with wild harvest fisheries in these areas,” said Jeff Grant, Chair.

Jeff Mercer, of the Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife presented area mapping of each pond displaying lease locations, eel grass beds, boat and recreational access areas.

“It’s a shallow water lease,” said Pinsky explaining his proposal. “It’s about a foot and a half on the western side to just under 3 feet on the eastern side. It’s consistent with the other leases that are in there.”

Pinsky’s lease as proposed abutted an existing lease with approximately 50 feet leeway between. The close proximity, according to Jeff Gardner, a panel aquaculture representative, posed issues between leaseholders, with gear drifting from one lease to another due to weather and ice.

Gardner reported that local residents were currently unhappy with the development of the industry on the pond.

“It is possible that the social carrying capacity has been reached,” wrote Gardner in a memo submitted to the panel.

Paul Kennedy, the panel’s recreational member also voiced “social capacity” concerns in favor of recreational activity on the pond.

Pinsky lease

A 2012 overhead view of the area of Brian Pinsky’s proposed aquaculture lease. The lease will be considered by the full MFC.

It is an area that is heavily used by recreation,” said Kennedy. “And the fact that its so shallow, precludes their use if you use it,” he said directly addressing Pinsky. “It’s not like the two can co-exist.”It is a big percentage of this bank that is already taken.”

Jim Arnoux, who has a current lease on the farm supported Pinsky as far as the recreational usage on the pond. “My lease is over there. Most of the people are staying close to the channel. They go all the way to the back flats, near the barrier beach on both sides of that island. Especially on the southwest corner of Rob’s lease, you have people in boats, kayaks and stuff.”

Countering, Kennedy said, “People who anchor, take their kayaks, are all over that bank all the time. It’s one of the most popular clamming spots in the state.”

“Not where I am, said Pinsky. “One of the most popular recreational clamming spots? There’s no density of clams there.”

Panel members, Dale Leavitt and Mercer upheld Pinsky’s claims, stating that a survey of the lease site yielded no significant shellfish.

“Its’ all overwash. It’s a pretty dynamic area. We pulled a bullrake through there and caught two crabs,” said Mercer.

“I did that one too, said Dave Beutel, of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council. “We found two quahogs.”

“It’s a sandy shallow area. There’s nothing there,” said Arnoux.

Motion to not object to the lease was made by Katie Eagan and seconded by Kennedy. Eagan voted not to object, Kennedy objected and Gardner abstained. Grant sitting as panel chair and also a member of the Marine Fisheries Council stated that he had no objection. Without an official quorum in the room and sitting as an advisory panel, Grant noted that any members not present who had official objections could do so to the council within the requisite time period.

When asked if the recreational areas abutting Pinsky’s proposal were formal landing or state-controlled public access sites, Beutel said, “No. They aren’t controlled access areas.”

Campbell and Arnoux’s leases were passed unanimously after determining that there were no conflicts with wild harvest fisheries and no objections  filed.

Recommendations will be forwarded to the Marine Fisheries Council for review.

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