2012-01-26 / Letters to the Editor

Islander clarifies story on oyster farming

In response to the article appearing in last week’s Jamestown Press – “Islander applies for permit to grow clams in Sheffield Cove” – there were several points that require clarification.

The motivation for this project comes from an understanding that oysters are the cornerstones in returning a healthy biodiversity to Narragansett Bay. Our interest is in maintaining, sustaining and improving the ecology of Narragansett Bay for all to enjoy for generations to come.

The experience for this project comes from my degree in zoology and the participation in the Roger Williams University Oyster Gardening for Restoration and Enhancement project for the past seven years, where more than one million oyster spat were raised in Jamestown waters. I also sit on the Outreach Committee on the CRMC Aquaculture Working Group, have completed Dr. Dale Levitt’s class in practical shellfish aquaculture at RWU, and developed an educational group called the Jamestown Aquaculture Movement.

The educational objective of this project will focus on creating a small marine farm of 32 floats that are easily accessible for study in Fox Hill Cove. We will discuss a variety of topics including, but not limited to:

• How to raise oyster spat.

• A healthy wild oyster population in Narragansett Bay could filter every gallon in less than a week.

• Oysters lower the nitrogen levels that lead to algae blooms and low oxygen conditions which can result in fish kills.

• Oyster reefs will provide a needed habitat for a wide diversity of marine larvae.

• Less turbid waters result in deeper sunlight penetration and greater marine plant growth.

• Oyster life cycle.

• Discuss hatchery versus nursery versus marine farm versus integrated multi-trophic aquaculture.

• Determining size and quantity.

• The affects of water quality on aquaculture.

• Human and oyster pathogenic organisms.

• Bio-fouling of equipment.

• Harvesting techniques.

• Storing and presentation for consumption.

The real question is: Does growing shellfish in conditional waters pose a health risk? Shellfishing is allowed in the grow-out area when the boats are out of the Dutch Harbor mooring field. This closure is based on the assumption that boaters will not follow the mandated regulations and use the pump-out station available.

The oysters will spend the winter months on the bottom during the open shellfishing period. Harvest will take place in early spring well before the waters are closed to shellfishing. For that reason I feel assured the animals will be free of human pathogens and wholesome. This would be in accordance with DEM regulations.

To further clarify:

This group will not and cannot make a profit due to the simple fact that the shellfish cannot be sold as the permit states.

This group is not looking for taxpayer-supported grants or funds of any kind. We are doing it because it needs to be done.

This group is not planting clams in Sheffield Cove. We are asking to place two 18-by-30-foot floats in the cove to raise the juvenile oysters until they reach 32 millimeters. At that time they will be moved to the grow-out site at Fox Hill Cove. The clams will grow under the floats at the grow-out site.

I responded to each and every concern that was brought to the attention of CRMC within hours of receiving the information.

In closing, I will work with Deborah Barone, the sixth-grade science teacher at Lawn Avenue School, to create a schedule of participation that will work with her curriculum and availability.

I take great exception to the comment that an institution is required to teach aquaculture. It is like saying it takes an institution to teach farming and only students and teachers are allowed.

It is my intention to teach as many individuals that are willing to learn about the importance of aquaculture. It is seeing, touching and feeling that will truly encourage others to understand the process and get involved.

As a Grange member sitting on the Farm Viability Committee,

I know it is critical that we all change our grazing patterns and get closer to our food source. Your help in this initiative is greatly appreciated.

If you would like a copy of the proposal and operational plan, I would be happy to email one. Feel free to email any comments or questions to pmlcec@aol.com.

Phil Larson

Melrose Avenue


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