Aquaculture rules and regulations await Town Meeting decisions

By Erik Fox | Nov 01, 2011
Photo by: Erik Fox Existing aquaculture areas like Bob Field's (shown) and future operations could see significant changes with the proposed rules and regulations.

Mattapoisett — Selectmen are putting finishing touches on proposed aquaculture rules and regulations. But it’s Town Meeting that will make two big decisions on the future of aquaculture in town.

At a relatively non-contentious hearing Tuesday night, the Selectmen took comments and concerns on the proposed rules and discussed the Town Meeting articles.

One of the articles. led by resident George Randall, would prohibit aquaculture in Mattapoisett coastal waters.

A second, submitted by Selectmen, would ask the town to petition for a $175 increase in acreage fees.

Proposed aquaculture rules and regulations—specifically moratoriums, clear intentions from the applicants, and grandfathering—will be rewritten to eliminate broad wording before approval can be made by the Board of Selectmen at a later date. The oft-discussed one-fathom rule, which denies aquaculture in areas less than six feet deep at mean low tide, will also be taken into consideration before the regulations are approved.

Public hearings on the rules and regulations and the town’s Waterfront Management Plan have been ongoing since the summer.

Section 2.3 of the proposed rules state that the Board of Selectmen “can declare a moratorium on the granting of licenses at anytime when deemed appropriate and in the best interests of the town,” but does not state time periods or reasons as to why such an issue can be made.

Selectman Jordan Collyer said this is a “grey area,” as Massachusetts General Law allows the closing of a season for no more than three years but does not state whether the conditions apply to only commercial or recreational shell fishing.

This also brings up the issue of whether a town can implement an outright ban on aquaculture or not, as suggested by the Town Meeting article.

The intentions and benefits of future aquaculture licensees will also be rewritten into to the proposed rules and regulations.

The Board of Selectmen said applicants must provide the benefits of his or her operation as well as the means to the farms without interfering with private property.

“I don’t want people walking all over my property,” resident Bill Dumas said. “What if their markers or gear wash up on the shore? Who will take care of that?”

Selectman Tyler Macallister said property owners should notify the town.

“It’s not different than if a boat washed up on shore from a hurricane,” Macallister said. “You would not only work with the town, but the owner has well to get things taken care of.”

Third, the Board will rewrite grandfathering regulations, specifically toward expansions of existing operations and uniformity of markers of the property.

For now, the proposals will go through the changes discussed at the hearing.

“We’ve got some ‘wordsmithing’ to do,” Paul Silva said. “I’m hoping it will be done by the last meeting in November or the first one in December. I don’t see that there’s much disagreement other than the one-fathom rule.”

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