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Shellfish Plan Put to State

MASSACHUSETTS - A group of Kingston fishermen has asked the Board of Selectmen to consider opening part of Kingston Bay to commercial aquaculture.

Kingston currently only allows residents to purchase shellfish licenses and clam on a small scale, for their own enjoyment. A few years ago, the town began seeding the bay with cherrystones and other mollusks for that reason.

However, According to news service Wicked Local, Duxbury towN has offered commercial licenses for 15 years, says oysterman Skip Bennett. Now 15 commercial farms cover about 30 acres of Duxbury Bay and for some shellfishing is big business.

"I’m an aquaculture junkie,” says Bennett the owner of Island Creek Oysters said. He has been harvesting oysters commercially in Duxbury Bay for 15 years. “I could go on and on about the positive impact of aquaculture.”

The business has environmental benefits too, helping to clean nitrogen and sediments out of seawater. The shellfish create more oxygen and bring in rare species like eelgrass. Economically, it also has a value to the town.

However, to expand the town needs the approval of the state Division of Marine Fisheries for more commercial licenses. The state would survey the bay and tell the town where commercial farms could be placed.

But there are conflicts - mostly between public shellfishing and private farms and granting farmers licenses may prevent anyone else from shellfishing in a particular area. Selectman Jean Landis Naumann was concerned about revenues to the town.

“The revenues from licensing are very minimal. The state only allows you to charge between $5 and $25 an acre. Basically, it’s a processing fee,” said,” Bill Walton, of the Southeastern Massachusetts Agriculture Centre.

With Walton, Bennett and other shellfishing professionals offering the positives of the plan, the selectmen were convinced to put this to the state. But not everyone was convinced.

The main concerns were money – seeding the bay costs the town $2,000 a year, and in the past six years, shellfish licenses have generated more than $37,000 for the town. Officials say it would not receive that from two or three commercial licenses and more resources would also be required.

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Ellen Hardy

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