CRANBERRY ISLES –The Department of Marine Resources has approved a 20-year aquaculture lease for a five-acre oyster farm located in The Pool on Great Cranberry Island for island residents Lauren and Joshua Gray. Unlike many such ventures the Grays’ plans drew virtually no adverse comment or formal opposition.
The leasing process also advanced with remarkable speed.
The Grays held their first pre-application meeting to give town residents a preview of their plans on April 12 last year. DMR held a public hearing on the application on Sept. 24 and DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher signed the lease about two weeks ago, on Dec. 13.
The less than three-month interval between the public hearing and Keliher’s decision was remarkably brief, but the reason things moved so swiftly is clear from the decision itself. DMR received no comments or objections to the proposal at the hearing whatsoever.
Situated on the eastern side of Great Cranberry Island, The Pool comprises several hundred acres of mostly shoal water set off from Cranberry Harbor — between Great and Little Cranberry islands — by a long, low arm of sand, cobble and marsh grass.
The lease site is located inside a small cove formed by the curve of that arm, more than 1,000 feet from the western shore of The Pool, occupied by a few houses and a boatyard, and the forested northern and southern uplands. Entrance to The Pool is narrow and rock-strewn, and the waterbody is itself shallow, and DMR found the proposed lease operations would have, at most, a limited impact on navigation generally. The lease also calls for wider than normal spacing between the longlines holding floating oyster cages so that kayaks and other small vessels may navigate through the lease site and access the low-lying eastern shore.
The Grays plan, when the lease is in full operation, to grow oysters in as many as 344 floating wire cages secured to up to 37 longlines each 160 feet long. Initially, plans call for installation of 100 cages. All cages will have to be set well clear of any eelgrass beds on the site. When in full operation, the site could produce as many as 200,000 oysters annually.
Some of those cages would overwinter sunk to the bottom of the site, while the rest would be moved to four Limited Purpose Aquaculture lease sites (LPAs) the Grays operate outside The Pool. They will also, now that the lease has been granted, surrender two LPAs the currently operate in The Pool.
Because the lease site is located in an area where “biotoxin is a concern” in shellfish, oysters grown on the lease site will have to be tested on a regular basis, at the Gray’s expense, to insure that the oysters are safe to consume.