Lauren Gray presented plans for a five-acre oyster farm in The Pool on Great Cranberry Island at a scoping session last month. She already grows oysters in several smaller, limited purpose leases in the area. PHOTO COURTESY OF LAUREN GRAY

Island oyster farm plan draws support

CRANBERRY ISLES — About 20 people turned out late last month for a public “scoping session” on oyster grower Lauren Gray’s plan to consolidate and expand her aquaculture lease areas and to extend the term of the lease.

She and her husband, Josh, who live on Islesford, currently hold limited purpose aquaculture licenses from the Department of Marine Resources for eight 400-square-foot sites in The Pool, which is nearly surrounded by Great Cranberry Island. They lease the sites from the DMR on an annual basis.

Gray plans to apply for a standard lease, under which she could consolidate the eight sites into one five-acre oyster farm with a lease term of 10 to 20 years. She said the scoping session, which the DMR requires, was “the public’s chance to give me feedback before I submit my standard lease application.”

She said she was very pleased with the response.

“Many of my friends and neighbors and my local fishermen and my harbormasters all showed up in support,” she said. “There was a lot of support in the room. I think that had a lot to do with [our] connection to the community here.

“I think it’s also because small offshore islands feel the need to promote working waterfronts and entrepreneurship almost more than anybody,” Gray said. “Aquaculture is kind of new, but it also follows that tradition. And I think people see it as a way for these outer islands to continue that sustainability.”

She said several people at the scoping session asked questions and raised a few concerns, such as how her proposed lease might affect their business in the future.

Flora Drury, a marine scientist with the DMR, attended the scoping session.

“She got the people’s [contact] information and will see if she can find answers to some of their questions,” Gray said.

Prior to selecting her current LPA lease sites, Gray said, she worked with several local lobstermen to make sure she wouldn’t be interfering with anyone’s fishing territory.

With feedback from the scoping session, Gray said she will complete her new lease application and submit it to the DMR.

“They will review it, and then they have to actually come and dive on the site,” she said. “Then we would have a public hearing, where I would go before the community again. After that, if everything goes well, the DMR would consider approving the lease.”

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