Oyster farm seeks Yarmouth's 1st 10-year lease

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YARMOUTH — Mark Green, owner of Basket Island Oyster Co., has applied for a 10-year, 4-acre lease from the Department of Marine Resources for an oyster cultivation farm in Broad Cove. 

If approved, it would be the first and largest oyster farm with a 10-year lease in Yarmouth. The only alternative is a three-year, non-renewable lease, of which Green has two. 

One, off Cornfield Point, is set to expire in 2019. Green also has a three-year, 2-acre lease in Broad Cove, which he would expand to the 10-year, 4-acre lease, beginning in 2018. 

Green has been granted a $130 mooring permit by the town and has paid the Department of Marine Resources a $1,500 application fee. If his application is approved, he will pay the state about $100 per acre each year to maintain his lease. 

Green will present his plan for the site on Sept. 13 at Yarmouth Town Hall. 

According to a press release, the Department of Marine Resources encourages the public to attend the hearing to ask questions regarding the lease. 

Harbormaster and Shellfish Warden Bob Byron said there are six to eight aquaculture sites in town, all of which are running on three-year leases. 

Byron said the three-year leases are serving as an “unofficial moratorium,” before owners apply for 10-year leases. 

Byron and Green both said the cultivation of oysters benefits the Casco Bay ecosystem. Oysters are filter feeders, which means they eat by straining suspended matter and food particles from water

“I look at aquaculture as a positive for the ocean, which we’re already made a mess of,” Byron said. “… (Filter feeders) remove impurities from the ocean.” 

Green added that filter feeding’s service to the ecosystem is “immeasurable.”

“It leaves water clearer and cleaner at the end of the day than it was at the beginning,” said Green, who lives on Peaks Island and is a professor of marine science and oceanography at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.

The state requires farmers to send notification of application to riparian land owners – those who live on the shore of a body of water – within 1,000 feet of their cultivation site. According to Green, there is some gray area in this regulation in Broad Cove. 

He said that, at high tide, the closest person to his proposed site is about 1,400 feet away, but at low tide, a few neighbors are less than 1,000 feet away. To avoid any miscommunication, he sent public notices to everyone with shorefront property on Broad Cove. 

“(Green’s site) is quite a distance from shore all the way around (Broad Cove),” Byron said. “It’s the ideal spot to have this lease.” 

Typically, most oysters are grown in floating cages on the surface of the water, where temperatures are the warmest. 

“Growth is a function of water temperature,” Green said. However, Green’s application is for the growth of “suspended and bottom culture” eastern oysters. This method grows oyster seeds in mesh bags on the floor of the ocean rather than the surface. 

According to Green, it takes an average of three years to grow an oyster to market size. Oysters are most efficiently grown when at the water’s surface, but he has opted to cultivate his completely submerged to “minimize any impact on riparian owners.” 

The only visible aspect of the farm will be four buoys located at each edge of the 4-acre site.

A work barge will be moored at the site once a month for about a week to harvest the oysters.  

“(Green) has been very sensitive to the lobster fisherman in Broad Cove,” Byron said. “They’ve worked well together … he wants to be a good neighbor to the other fisheries out there.” 

“Aquaculture is coming, it is the future,” Green added. “With that in mind, I want to be the best neighbor possible … Broad Cove is a great location; if I’m not in there somebody else will be.”

“The ocean is a common resource and we all have to learn to get along and use it,” Green added. 

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.