Association backs floating bags for aquaculture

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
21 March 2007, at 12:00am

US - The authors of this letter constitute the Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association and we would like to be recognized on record as supporting the use of normal farm practice, including the use of floating bags, for the farming of oysters on Cape Cod.

We are concerned with misinformation and scare tactics that have been published in other papers. Our position is based on several factors, including evidence that floating bag technology has been regularly used by Cape Cod oyster farmers for more than 25 years with no apparent degradation to local estuarine environments. The floating bags in question cover approximately 0.3 percent of the surface of West Bay. This area is the equivalent of three sailboat moorings, of which there are 198 in West Bay alone.

The technology involves small (1.5x2.5 foot) plastic mesh bags with flotation logs attached on either side and arranged in rafts of multiple bags or on long lines, moored using conventional boat-type mooring equipment. These systems are generally deployed in areas with substantial water depth to negate the potential of the bags touching or dragging on the bottom.

From an environmental perspective there are no negative impacts and, in fact, the Town of Barnstable has used the same floating bag method in its shellfish propagation program. In addition, the nursery systems provide positive ecosystems services in the form of removing nitrogen from the overlying waters. The consumed nitrogen, in the form of phytoplankton, is either incorporated into oyster tissue and harvested or is transitioned to the benthos where it is converted to a form that is unavailable for biological activity, i.e. a non-eutrophic form. In many areas of the country, large public programs, e.g. in Chesapeake Bay, and more locally in Mashpee, are focused on expanding oyster populations to counter the eutrophic conditions resulting from nutrient run-off from land-based sources. In the Three Bays area, local shellfish farmers are taking care of this program for you, at no cost to the public.