Aquaculture next objective of New Bedford officials
NEW BEDFORD — Mayor Jon Mitchell was taking his daily run atop the hurricane barrier late last year when he had a realization: There are a lot of things one cannot do amid the huge granite blocks on the barrier’s sides.
Development is out. Swimming, out. Boating, out. It defied the imagination. Then he thought of aquaculture. The barrier now was a sheltered spot where aquaculture might be practiced while annoying as few people as possible in places such as Clark’s Cove.
One thing led to another, until Tuesday when a lengthy survey report was made public, spelling out the advantages and disadvantages of shellfish farming on the SouthCoast shore of Buzzards Bay.
On the merits, the report, funded by Coastal Enterprises, Inc. of Portland, Maine and the Garfield Foundation, found that if the region plays its hand right, aquaculture could become a significant contributor to the local economy, dovetailing nicely with the fishing industry that, as of now, doesn’t fish in Buzzards Bay.
The CEI exists “to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises and shared prosperity in Maine, and across the U.S. People of all income levels can fulfill their promise and reach their full potential,” said the report.
Speaking to a gathering Tuesday at Fort Taber, Coastal Enterprises was joined by Mitchell and Port Authority Director Ed Anthes-Washburn, Seth Garfield, oyster farmer for 27 years on Cuttyhunk, and a crew from Ketcham Traps.
Mitchell and Washburn said repeatedly how well aquaculture promises to fit together with the fishing industry and its support network of shore-side businesses that greatly simplify the job of putting together a system that works. Everything is at hand and can even help fishing boats from outside the port. The chain of supply also exists for the fish products.
Mitchell said he gave it a thought and decided “there is no reason for not doing this.”
Some might disagree. Coastal residents tend to be affluent and very protective of their property. In some quarters aquaculture is seen as the work of the devil, and the local permitting process opens up prospective farmers to withering criticism, sometimes stopping projects.
NIMBY (“Not in My Back Yard”) is “rampant in the SouthCoast,” says the report. It “tops the list of challenges for growers in the region.”
NIMBY is a form of public resistance to the issuance of town aquaculture permitting often stemming from self interest, misinformation, or outright fear that aquaculture operations could “take over” communal waters, the report said. Most common protests generally stem from area homeowners’ objections or fears of having water views interfered with.
“NIMBY is a powerful social and community issue,” said the authors.“NIMBY is a social and community issue, and one that has powerful implications for not just sustaining existing farms, but also future growth of commercial aquaculture farms in the region.”
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