SORRENTO — On a cold, windy night there wasn’t much of a crowd for a public scoping session on oyster farmer Graham Platner’s plan to expand his aquaculture lease in Sorrento.
Representatives from the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), The American and Platner’s mother were the only ones in attendance.
Platner, a resident of Sullivan, currently owns three Limited Purpose Aquaculture licenses on the west side of Ingalls Island in Sullivan Harbor. The site has been producing oysters since 2013, and Platner took over the leases this past January. He plans to apply for a standard lease in order to expand the oyster-growing operation to a total of eight acres.
“Right now we have enough seed ordered to fill 20 cages on top of the 30 we already have at the site,” Platner said. “After that we want to go up to 100 cages in the second year, 200 in the third year, and build up to around 400 cages on the site within five years.”
The plan is to use 160-foot-long lines, each with 10 cages, strung 30 feet apart. At maximum capacity, Platner said he was looking at producing 200,000 to 300,000 marked-sized oysters per year.
This site is located in between two sandbars extending out from the island, just north of a cottage owned by the family of Platner’s business partner, Rob Cushman.
Platner said the visual impact would be minimal, though, as the majority of the farming would be done in the upper two sites, with the lower section used for potential future expansion or to shift around equipment in the event of foul weather.
Marine traffic in the area is also minimal.
“There are two lobstermen that fish around our site. One of them I’ve already spoken to, showed him the map, and he had no problem with it,” Platner said. “We’re definitely amenable to shifting around gear and setting it up in a way to keep guys fishing.”
Platner’s mother, Leslie Harlow, added that “there’s very little recreational activity in that spot. In the last three years it’s probably no different than 30 years ago.”
The purpose of the scoping session, required by the DMR, was to gauge public opinion on the potential aquaculture lease. Moving forward, Platner will submit his application, DMR will dive on the site and another public hearing will be held.