HANCOCK — The Maine Department of Marine Resources on July 6 denied an application to allow the use of a hydraulic harvesting vessel at an aquaculture site southeast of Cedar Point in Taunton Bay.
Applicant Taunton Bay Oyster Co. sought to amend its standard existing lease to use the vessel in conjunction with harvesting by diver, hand tools and a 3-foot-wide dredge. The proposed vessel uses water pressure to move oysters onto a conveyer to bring them to the surface. The equipment is “capable of harvesting at least 10 times faster than our other methods,” according to the application.
By law, the DMR commissioner may grant certain lease amendments “provided the proposed changes do not materially alter the findings of the original decision.” According to the decision last week, the proposed amendment did constitute a material change. The final decision, signed by Commissioner Patrick Keliher, also questioned the applicant’s assertion that the vessel is “easier on the bottom [and] on oysters and any by-catch, reduc[es] the distribution of mud and silt and is more efficient.”
The denial decision stated that the DMR “does not have the necessary information to assess the potential impacts of this harvest technique on ecologically significant flora and fauna.”
The original lease was granted in 2020 for the cultivation of American oysters using bottom culture techniques. Harvesting is to be done by divers, or if divers are not available, by hand tools and a 3-foot-wide dredge. A condition of the lease is that harvesting not disturb eelgrass.
Last week’s decision said that hydraulic conveyors “have the potential to harm eelgrass through physical disturbance such as uprooting plants and siltation.”