The Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group has entered into a long-term lease agreement with the Massachusetts Department and Fish and Game’s Division of Marine Fisheries. The 15-year lease agreement allows the shellfish group to continue using the John T. Hughes Hatchery and Research Facility in Oak Bluffs to raise shellfish for transplant into harvestable shellfish beds throughout the Island. The long-term lease agreement also allows the shellfish group to make additional infrastructure investments alongside “enabling the organization to ensure the continued and reliable production of shellfish in support of the Island’s public fisheries,” according to the press release.
Legislation sponsored by State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, which was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker in January, allowed for the lease agreement to move forward.
“Aquaculture is vital to the region’s blue economy, and the work done by the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group is key to establishing sustainability in this industry,” Cyr said in a press release. “This 15-year lease agreement supports the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group to further their essential work on the Island, such as their shellfish restoration programs.”
“The shellfish group is the hub of aquaculture activity on Martha’s Vineyard, and contributes immensely to the sustainability of the island’s shellfishing industry,” Fernandes said in the release. “This lease agreement allows the shellfish group to pursue long-term funding opportunities that will give them the flexibility to expand this historical and cultural way of life on the Vineyard. Alongside Senator Julian Cyr, I’m proud to have passed special legislation on behalf of the Island that enabled this arrangement.”
The division continues to maintain the facility. The hatchery “has become an irreplaceable cog” in the shellfish group’s activities, according to the press release. In 2019, the hatchery produced almost half of the shellfish larvae distributed across the Island: 10 to 15 million quahog seeds, 20 to 25 million scallop seeds, and 10 million oyster seeds. The division’s support also allows other shellfish group activities as well, such as eelgrass propagation and shell recycling.
“We are thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to bring this historic building back to a thriving and productive state,” Emma Green-Beach, director of the shellfish group, said in the press release. “We believe that greater shellfish resources will improve the economic, ecological, and cultural resiliency of the Vineyard community, and now we have [a] greater capacity to take bigger strides toward that goal.”