Only nine people showed up for a Department of Marine Resources scoping session in Hancock to discuss the Taunton Bay Oyster Co. plan to apply for a new lease site in the Taunton River. Company President Michael Briggs is at the table. ISLANDER PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Oyster farm floats lease

HANCOCK — The Taunton Bay Oyster Co. is looking for another aquaculture lease off the Hancock shore. But the company wouldn’t be expanding its lease holdings.

On April 24, company President Michael Briggs hosted a small group at Hancock Town Hall for a pre-application “scoping session” to discuss his plans for a 4.97-acre lease for the bottom culture of oysters in the Taunton River on a roughly 200-by-1,088-foot rectangular site located more or less off the end of Cemetery Road. The site would replace a 5.18-acre lease site located just to the southwest along the Hancock shore that the company already has surrendered.

The nine people who came to the meeting heard Briggs explain that the sea bottom on the surrendered site had proved unsuitable for oyster culture. Fine silt buried most of the young oysters his company planted on the site, making them too difficult to harvest. The proposed site, he said, has a bottom that was more gravel than sand.

“It’s perfect for oysters,” he said.

Not everyone in the audience was sure of that. Ice, otters and seals all were suggested hazards on the site.

According to Briggs, he “never lost any oysters to otters” and seals are not a problem in Taunton Bay. As for ice, the site was selected precisely because it rarely, if ever, freezes. The company wants to use it primarily to harvest oysters from late fall through the winter when its lease sites farther up Taunton Bay may be icebound.

Briggs said the company planned to use divers rather than drags to harvest oysters. He said he would ask for the right to use a small drag if, for example, his divers were ill or couldn’t make it to work and he needed product for customers.

Although he has that right on his other leases in the bay, he said, “We’ve never had to do that in 12 years.”

He also assured the crowd that the company would access the proposed lease site only by boat – mostly open outboards except in winter – and planned no shore access. The company is planning to build a tank room to store oysters off the former Gordon’s Wharf across the river in Sullivan.

The next step for Taunton Bay is to file a formal lease application with the Department of Marine Resources and then wait for the process, which includes a public hearing, to play itself out. DMR Aquaculture Coordinator Jon Lewis said that, even if the department received an application “tomorrow,” no hearing was likely before next winter.

Briggs has reason to be optimistic about the eventual success of an application. The Friends of Taunton Bay conservation group expressed no objection to the plan, nor did Gary Edwards, Sullivan’s representative to the seven-town Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Conservation Committee.

As the session ended, one man told Briggs, “I’ve heard good things about your product. It’s good to have more of them.”


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]

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