Stephen Rappaport

Morgan Bay Shellfish Farm Plan Roils Tempers at Surry Meeting



Stephen Rappaport
If the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) approves, shellfish farmer Joe Porada will get a four-acre experimental aquaculture lease to plant hard clams and oysters in the shallow waters beyond the flats at the head of Morgan Bay in Surry.

SURRY — A proposal for an experimental shellfish aquaculture lease near the head of Morgan Bay drew some opposition and considerable skepticism at a Department of Marine Resources (DMR) scoping session at the Surry Elementary School last week.

DMR regulations do not require a scoping session for experimental leases, but “we thought it was a fair thing to do,” said Jon Lewis, a DMR biologist who represented the department at the meeting.

Joseph Porada, a longtime shellfish harvester and, more recently, a shellfish farmer has approached the department about applying for an aquaculture lease to grow hard clams and oysters on a four-acre site near the head of Morgan Bay. The proposed lease site is across the bay from the Carter Nature Preserve.

About two dozen people packed into the meeting to question Porada about his plan to study the feasibility of raising hard clams from local seed stock in 30-50 black plastic mesh bags planted in the muddy bottom. Each is about 5 feet by 14 feet in size and would cover, in the aggregate, about 3,500 square feet for the roughly 175,000-square-foot site.

Small buoys, like lobster trap toggles, would float the upper surface of the bags about 12 inches above the bottom. Depths on the site range from 2-10 feet at mean low tide, Porada said, so the bags would be underwater except at times of extreme drain tides. What would be visible would be four mooring ball-type buoys marking the site’s corners and several “lobster style” buoys marking its edges.

“Even though it’s invisible, it’s not to people who know what’s there,” said Nicholas Sichterman. The proposed lease site is located more or less directly in front of his family’s shorefront camp.

Next year, if the lease is granted, Porada also would like to try raising oysters in mesh bags on the bottom. Porada said if the Morgan Bay experimental site proves successful, he would probably apply for a regular 10-year, 12-acre commercial aquaculture lease that would extend as much as 1,000 feet farther out into the bay. Morgan Bay is between 2,200 and 3,000 feet wide in the area of the proposed lease.

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Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]