The board of selectmen this week unanimously granted three aquaculture permits to Falmouth shellfishermen to grow oysters in Eel River near Washburn Island.
“We have been on a long journey to engage a public/private partnership to both promote nitrogen removal through aquaculture, and also achieve some other benefits for the community, including new commercial opportunities for local businesspersons and improving conditions for ongoing wild harvest shellfish,” assistant town manager Peter Johnson-Staub said at the Monday, September 9, board of selectmen meeting.
The terms of the license agreement are different from a standard permit.
“We have some minimum standards for these farmers,” Mr. Johnson-Staub said. “They have to put in enough shellfish and remove enough nitrogen so we know the town is getting as much nitrogen out of that site as we can reasonably expect.”
The three licenses were granted to Daniel P. Ward of Ward Aquafarms, North Falmouth Highway, North Falmouth; Matthew V. Weeks of Trotting Park Road, Teaticket, a self employed commercial fisherman and founder of the Nantucket Sound Shellfish Company; and the Falmouth Shellfish Cooperative, a group of three commerical shellfish farms. The cooperative includes Eric A. Matzen of the Woods Hole Oyster Company, Mary M. Murphy of Rolling Stone Marine and Peter D. Chase of the Quissett Point Oyster Company.
All three applicants were vetted by a review committee and selected for these half-acre sites near Washburn Island, Mr. Johnson-Staub said.
“These three set the bar pretty high, which is terrific,” he said.
Selectman Douglas H. Jones described the project as “right along the lines of what we’ve been moving forward to.”
“I’m thrilled that we have three applicants the town found to be favorable,” Selectman Jones said.
The applicants said they would start growing in the spring, slowly building toward the town’s nitrogen-removal goals.
“It will be definitely be a crawl, walk, run pace,” Ms. Murphy said. “There are some goals we have to hit in terms of nitrogen removal for the town. It has to be a bit of a progressive pace.”
Mr. Ward said the goal is to remove nitrogen and clean up the estuaries in a sustainable fashion, and a spring 2020 start date ensures this.
“We want to make sure that everything is implemented correctly,” he said. “We don’t want anything floating away. We don’t want any markers to be inappropriate. We just want to make sure it is rolled out in a way that is sustainable for the long term.”
All three aquaculture farmers were assigned a half acre site west of Washburn Island for this work. Mr. Ward’s site is approximately 200 feet west of the island, while Mr. Weeks and the Falmouth Shellfish Cooperative were assigned sites approximately 150 feet west of the island.