Can the oyster fishing license go to the corporate? The proposals spark controversy on Cape Cod.

Can the oyster fishing license go to the corporate?  The proposals spark controversy on Cape Cod.

On a sandbar off the coast of Barnstable on a current windy morning, Corey Hendricks picked up a steel mesh bag. It is certainly one of 125 giant baggage laid out, all crammed with tiny clams.

“As soon as they get sufficiently big like that, they will go straight into the cage,” he stated.

Hendricks poured the oysters from the bag into certainly one of 100 cages lined up on the sandbar, then evenly distributed the oysters to cowl the underside.

This setup does not seem like a typical image of a farm, however that is what it’s: as a substitute of agriculture, it is aquaculture. Hendricks stated tidal adjustments push the oysters round and assist them develop.

His firm is named Duck Island Oysters, and his farm is 2 acres of offshore public land managed by town of Barnstable.

“I’ve about half 1,000,000 oysters,” Hendricks stated. “Final yr we planted 200,000 cahogues. This yr, one other 200,000.”

Massachusetts oyster fishermen farmed almost $37 million price of oysters and oysters in 2022. Not like different fisheries, oyster fishing is regulated regionally by particular person cities and cities. However in some Cape communities, there was heated debate about altering these laws and what it might imply for the way forward for the trade.

Oysters farmed in cages off the coast of Barnstable, Massachusetts.

Craig Lemault

GBH Information

As a result of these farms are thought of a group useful resource, some Cape communities, akin to Barnstable and Wellfleet, are cautious to restrict permits for residents.

However Barnstable is presently contemplating two controversial adjustments to its shellfish laws. First, some within the metropolis need to enhance the utmost particular person farm dimension from 4 to 14 acres. There’s additionally a proposal to permit firms and authorized entities to acquire licenses, not simply folks dwelling within the metropolis.

If these adjustments are made, present farms might find yourself merging to type giant firms, which small farmers may have a tough time competing with, Hendricks stated.

“If they modify the foundations, they’ll now consolidate all that farmland they handle into one license below one identify, which is the corporate identify,” he stated. “Don’t die.”

Presently, when somebody dies or provides up their license, they transfer again into town. This license then turns into obtainable to different residents by means of a ready checklist. Hendricks stated altering the foundations to permit companies to acquire licenses might imply that individuals like his mom, who’re in town’s ready checklist, wouldn’t have the chance to have their very own oyster farm.

The adjustments to Barnstable’s laws had been proposed by Al Surprenant, founder and proprietor of Cape Cod Oyster Firm, certainly one of New England’s largest oyster growers.

Surprenant is a member of town’s shellfish advisory board. There is a cause he needed to extend the dimensions restrict to 14 acres: His firm collectively manages 14 acres of oyster farms in Barnstable which might be licensed to people who reside on the town, together with a few of his relations.

“And there is most likely ten different farmers on the town proper now in the identical state of affairs I am in, the place they’ve a number of relations who personal…two two-acre tons,” Surprenant stated. “So perhaps they’ve 10 acres all collectively. What occurs when mother and pa die?”

If there is no such thing as a different member of the family within the metropolis to switch these licenses to, then below present metropolis guidelines, the licenses can’t be held in-house, he stated.

“What you are doing is blowing up small household companies,” Surprenant stated.

Tamar Haspel and her husband personal a type of firms, known as Barnstable Oyster.

“If we might have put the grants in an organization identify, we’d have carried out that,” Haspel stated. “And I feel different small, family-run companies will too.”

Permitting firm names on oyster licenses would make it simpler to promote an organization for one cause, she stated.

“When you make investments some huge cash and lots of effort into constructing a enterprise, you should not be anticipated to stroll away from it. And I feel it is not good for town for folks to stroll away from the ability,” she stated. “Companies, as a result of present companies rent folks, purchase companies, purchase provides — that’s the way you get a vibrant economic system.”

A proposal to permit company names on oyster licenses was additionally mentioned by Wellfleet’s Shellfish Advisory Board over the summer season.

Wellfleet oyster fisherman and board member Michael DeFasto supported the concept. He stated his lawyer informed him he can be extra shielded from lawsuits if he put his license within the identify of his restricted legal responsibility firm, or LLC.

“You understand, the trade has advanced quite a bit within the final 10 years. There’s lots of tools within the water. And we’re principally farming on a public waterway the place individuals are having fun with recreation. That is fraught with legal responsibility,” DeFasto stated. “.

His Wellfleet teammate, Ryan Curley, sees issues very in a different way.

Curley stated he is involved the city might create a state of affairs just like what occurred with a lot of the remainder of the fishing trade, the place company possession of fleets, and even the proper to fish, has pushed out the little man.

“This has led to decreased income for fishermen and consolidation throughout the board,” Curley stated.

Oyster fishing has been largely immune from all of this, as a result of it’s managed by native cities. However Curley worries if oyster licenses — or grants, as they’re additionally known as — are owned by firms, these oyster rights might be purchased and bought as a personal commodity.

“With the ability to take a grant in an organization would basically flip it right into a monetary asset that may be bought, which isn’t allowed below our laws,” Curley stated.

However he stated there can be nothing they may do about it if the change was authorised.

Wellfleet’s shellfish advisory committee finally voted towards the concept.

A vote remains to be pending in Barnstable, the place Corey Hendricks hopes to see the proposal meet the identical destiny.

Hendricks stated he hopes in the future to move his oyster fishing license to the subsequent technology in his household, or maybe to an worker or apprentice. If not, you must go to somebody on town’s ready checklist, he stated.

“When you’re outdated and nobody desires to take over that farm and also you move away, a 22-year-old would possibly get that farm and provides them an opportunity to make a couple of hundred thousand {dollars} a yr.” “We’ll reside on this evolving economic system on Cape Cod,” he stated.

He stated that is what is going to maintain this native economic system of small-scale oyster farmers alive in his metropolis.

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