Select board sides with fishermen on scallop limits 

Oak Bluffs officials discuss shellfish temperature restrictions, holiday decorations, and welcome a new police employee.

The Oak Bluffs town hall

At their Tuesday meeting, Oak Bluffs select board members heard from newly appointed town shellfish constable Donovan McElligatt regarding the shellfish bushel limit and a recommendation to make changes to the 2022–23 scallop season temperature restriction.

McElligatt pulled back on an October request to decrease commercial and recreational/family fishing bushel limits for both Sengekontacket Pond and Lagoon Pond, from three and one bushels respectively to two bushels for commercial fishing, and one half-bushel for recreational and family use, respectively. He said the new recommendation is to keep the limits that were already in place — three and one.

But McElligatt’s suggestion of increasing the temperature cap from 28° to 30° Farenheit by 10 am for all pond scalloping was met with resistance from commercial shellfisherman Kyle Peters, who noted that in the past, the restriction has only applied to dragging.

McElligatt said the proposed change is meant to enhance the town’s conservation efforts, and protect the seed stock. 

This year, he said, scallop seed appears to be larger than usual, which has caused recreational shellfishermen to accidentally remove it from the waters. 

“The idea behind the temperature restriction is not to impact the commercial fishery, or the people in the commercial fishery,” McElligatt said, “it was more targeted to the recreational fishery.” 

He said there has been an increase in participation in recreational shellfishing, due to it being “a very good season,” and that it may cause strain to the scallop seed population, as it is sometimes difficult to differentiate seed from adults. Unlike other species, McElligatt said, adult scallops are not determined by size but by growth rings. 

McElligatt told the board that the shellfish committee had approved the recommendation on Dec. 6. 

Select board member Emma Green-Beach, who serves as the executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, explained that there are dangers of removing scallop seed from the waters, as being exposed to the air can increase mortality. 

Peters asked the select board not to expand the restriction to dip net fishing and other non-dragging methods. The board agreed in a 4-0 vote, with Green-Beach abstaining.

The board approved a request by Police Chief Jon Searle regarding the conditional appointment of Officer Shannon Levesque to the Oak Bluffs Police Department. 

Levesque, who was born and raised on the Island, specialized in emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and has served with OBPD for a number of years in various capacities, Searle said, where she consistently exhibited her ability to work well within the department. “I have absolutely no reservations about recommending her,” Searle said.

Her appointment is contingent on completion of the full-time curriculum at Massachusetts Police Academy.

Meanwhile, the select board accepted Crossland Landscape’s donation for the installation of the Sunset Lake Holiday Tree. 

“This year we ran into a bit of a snag with the bidding laws, and making sure we did everything by the books, and not spending money that legally we couldn’t,” highway superintendent Richie Combra told the board. “We scaled things back, and eliminated the tree at Sunset Lake,” he said, along with downsizing the Ocean Park decorations, in order to keep under the spending threshold. 

Combra said Mark Crossland of Crossland Landscaping had approached him, and offered to display the tree free of cost to the town. Combra highlighted the various intricacies of displaying the lake’s tree, including extensive electrical work and permitting. 

Select board chair Ryan Ruley extolled Crossland, who was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, for his dedication to the town. “Him stepping up like that is pretty amazing,” Ruley said, “he put in a lot of hard work, and that doesn’t go unnoticed.”

“I think we’re lucky to have Mark,” select board member Brian Packish said, for the work he does and the donations he makes to the town. 

Packish said the town needs to “collectively decide” how to move forward with holiday decorations in the future. He noted that the downtown’s holiday light display costs the town “$30,000 to $40,000” annually. In comparison, the vendor that supplies the town’s yearly fireworks costs $50,000, he said. 

Ruley said that the recent fundraising campaign organized by the Oak Bluffs Business Association (OBA) which garnered around $4,500, stemmed from a case of “miscommunication.” He said that the Sunset Lake tree display was nixed due to an issue with procurement, and not the budget. Ruley said he plans on meeting with members of the OBA, “to discuss where [the] funds go.” 

In other business, the select board approved a temporary sidewalk closure at 10 Oak Bluffs Ave. in preparation of the Old Souvenir Shop demolition and reinstallation of the sidewalk bricks, periodically until April 1, in addition to the temporary closure of Sweet Life Cafe between Feb. 15 and March 8.

A request by Linda Jean’s Restaurant owner Marc Hanover and Winston and Lisa Christie — who have taken over the lease of the Oak Bluffs eatery, in addition to owning and operating Winston’s Kitchen  — to transfer their seasonal alcohol license to annual was approved by the select board. This will be the first time in five years that Linda Jean’s will be open year-round. 

The board reappointed Brian Smith to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and Joe Sollitto to the Port Council. Bill Clearly was appointed as the Oak Bluffs representative for the Eversource working group. 

Both Ruley and Packish announced that they will not be seeking re-election come the spring. Their departures mean two seats will be up for grabs on the Oak Bluffs select board during the annual town election.