Army Corps hears Martha's Vineyard aquaculture plan
The US Army Corps of Engineers is accepting public comment on a proposal that would set aside three 25-acre sites for the purposes of aquaculture projects in waters off West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah.
Around the world aquaculture has become an important component of local fishing economies, and in some cases it has supplanted the harvest of naturally occurring stocks. If a project now on the drawing board goes well, someday locally raised mussels will be added to Martha's Vineyard's fishing economy.
This summer a group that includes Rick Karney, director of the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group, local fishermen, and Scott Lindell of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole will install two pilot mussel projects.
Although the Army Corps must treat the project as three separate permit applications, one from each town, it is one project. Mr. Karney said the goal is to ease the often daunting and complicated permitting process for fishermen in the future.
Ideally, if the project is approved and the growing method proves to be viable fishermen-farmers would only be required to seek a permit from the respective town.
Mr. Karney expects to install two mussel farms in June. The farms will use an innovative open ocean system developed by researchers at the University of New Hampshire's Atlantic Marine Aquaculture Center and Open Ocean Aquaculture Program
The system is designed to avoid gear and turf conflicts while providing optimum growth conditions for the blue mussel, a popular and fast growing shellfish distributed worldwide in most polar and temperate waters and found along this coast from North Carolina to Canada.
The 25-acre sites was selected with input from local fishermen in order to avoid turf conflicts. In one case, a change was made to exclude a popular striped bass fishing location, and an abundance of fluke was responsible for another location shift (for exact locations go to nae.usace.army.mil/reg/1709_001.pdf).
Two longlines, one off the north shore and one off the south shore, will be set between anchored buoy lines. The 600-foot longlines will be anchored at each end by a 550-pound granite block and suspended by submersible floats at a depth of about 30 feet below the surface.
The longlines will act as backbones for a series of looped grow-out ropes. Seed mussels contained in biodegradable cotton sleeves will be attached to the ropes and allowed to grow to market size, a process that takes about 12 months, based on initial reports.
The plan calls for two fishermen with large boats to tend the pilot farms. Mr. Karney also wants to involve other fishermen. "I would like to see enough people involved so that it is a training project, too," he said.
Mr. Karney said he expects to have the mussels in the water by July and if all goes well, available for harvest in summer 2010, when demand is at a peak. "That's in a perfect world, but we will see how it all goes," he said.
Public comments should be forwarded to the US Army Corps of Engineers by March 17, attention Kevin Kotelly, 696 Virginia Road, Concord MA 01742-2751.