Shellfish Group poised to govern shellfish hatchery

A bill that will give greater control of the Hughs Hatchery to the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group awaits Gov. Baker's signature. — Rich Saltzberg

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, to provide greater autonomy to the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group with a 15-year lease at the John T. Hughes Hatchery and Research Station in Oak Bluffs has passed the Massachusetts House and Senate. The bill is on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, awaiting a signature. 

The Shellfish Group has long used the hatchery as a facility to conduct research and to propagate oysters, scallops and other shellfish. 

“Currently, operations at the hatchery are under the authority of the Division of Marine Fisheries,” a release states, “although since 2011 the Shellfish Group has occupied the facility and controlled day-to-day operations. This bill officially transfers all operations to the Shellfish Group, giving them more freedom to conduct research and make changes to the facility.”

“The Shellfish Group is the hub of aquaculture activity on-Island, and contributes immensely to the sustainability of this storied Vineyard livelihood,” Fernandes said through a release. “This bill will give them the authority they need to continue the important work at Hughes Hatchery.” 

The bill passage was praised by Shellfish Group officials. “We are extremely grateful to the Division of Marine Fisheries, Senator [Juilan] Cyr and Representative Fernandes for supporting the mission of MVSG,” Emma Green-Beach, executive director of the Shellfish Group, said through a release. “A long-term lease enables us to search for the funding needed to make substantial investments into the property and into our shellfish restoration programs on the Vineyard. We are very excited for MVSG’s future at the Hughes Hatchery.”