Maritime Shorts: Oyster lease meeting, lobster genes, hold on to your balloons

Public hearing 

SORRENTO — A public hearing for a proposed oyster aquaculture lease near Ingalls Island has been scheduled for next month.   

The state Department of Marine Resources has scheduled a hearing on Aug. 9 at the Sorrento town hall for Frenchman Bay Oyster Company. Grower Graham Platner is looking for a 20-year, 5.85-acre lease in Sullivan Harbor, west and south of the island, to grow American oysters.   

Platner and his partner Jock Crothers currently operate three limited-purpose aquaculture licenses within the proposed areas and their company is better known as Waukeag Neck Oyster. The farm currently has about 200,000 oysters in varying stages of growth, according to the company’s lease application.   

The public hearing will be held at 3 p.m. Anyone wishing to participate in the hearing is asked to register on the DMR’s website by 5 p.m. on July 25. That date is also the deadline for intervenor applications.   


Lobster genome sequencing 

GLOUCESTER, MASS. — Researchers at the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute say they have published the first complete genome sequence for the American lobster.   

“This genome sequence will serve as a valuable resource for fisheries, ecology, and biomedical research, especially in understanding complex traits including susceptibility to disease and ability to cope with environmental change,” Director of Science Donald G. Comb said in a statement.  

Lobsters have been estimated to live more than 50 years but have rarely been reported to have cancer-like diseases, indicating a high fidelity of the genome over their long life.   

Analysis of the genes encoded in the lobster genome found a unique complement of genes involved in maintaining genome integrity and cell survival, as well as a diverse array of sensory and defense mechanisms that make them able to thrive at the bottom of the ocean. 

“It was a challenging genome to sequence and assemble, but it now provides the research community with a resource to continue to expand our understanding of the biology, ecology and evolution of this fascinating animal,” said GMGI senior research associate, Jennifer Polinski, the lead author on the publication.  

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University, University of Florida, Dalhousie University, University of Prince Edward Island, Tufts University and Harvard University also helped with the study.   


Balloon release law 

AUGUSTA — A bill defining the intentional release of balloons as an act of littering is now law.   

“Discarded balloons are one of the most common and harmful types of plastic that we see on the water,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Genevieve McDonald (D-Stonington). “With this new law, more people will realize they shouldn’t be littering, damaging ocean life and negatively affecting fishermen’s livelihoods.”  

The bill will go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.   

The bill has an exemption for balloons being used for meteorological or other scientific purposes.   

A person who releases 16 to 24 balloons at one time would be in violation of the new law and would be subject to a fine between $100 and $500.   

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