Oak Bluffs selectmen approve oyster farm

The highlighted area indicates the approximate location of the Marino brother's proposed oyster farm off Eastville Beach in Oak Bluffs. — Photo courtesy of Google Earth

Oak Bluffs selectmen have granted preliminary approval to brothers Greg and Dan Martino to locate an oyster farm off Eastville Beach. The proposal had the unanimous support of the shellfish committee and shellfish constable David Grunden, at the selectmen’s regular meeting on March 11.

“I think it’s a good idea. It goes along with the Vineyard objective of producing locally,” said shellfish committee member Rick Huss.

The Martinos chose the Eastville Beach location after the selectmen denied their first application last year to farm in Lagoon Pond, saying the required space was too large and would interfere with boating and other recreational pursuits.

Dan Martino said this time their proposed operation would be smaller, a little under two acres of ocean bottom, and they would take “baby steps” to grow their business.

The selectmen gave their approval on the condition that the oyster cage buoys must not interfere with recreation.

Several Eastville Beach residents attended the meeting to oppose the project, citing the brothers’ lack of experience, the possibility of the cages washing ashore in big storms, and aesthetic concerns. Selectmen were unpersuaded.

“I have the utmost respect for Dave [Grunden] and the shellfish committee,” selectman Michael Santoro said. “These guys are young, I think they’ll do it right, and they’ll have everybody watching them.”

“We are trying to develop a fishery here, and I think this board in particular wants to see this be successful,” selectman Greg Coogan said.

The brothers still have a long approval process to navigate before they can begin breeding bivalves. Mr. Martino said the location still must be evaluated by the Division of Marine Fisheries, Coast Guard, the state Archeological Resources board, native American tribes, and the Army Corps of Engineers. The Martinos expect to return to the selectmen with a finalized project late this year. They hope to be up and running by spring of 2015.