Shellfish licenses to be sold at Town Hall

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 8:45am
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Wendell Corey got right to the point at the Shellfish Commission’s meeting on Tuesday, June 12. “Where are you going to sell shellfish licenses?” he asked Harbors Assistant and Shellfish Clerk Kate McConville.

“As of now, right in Town Hall,” answered McConville. Later she would say: “It was either the Coast Guard Station or Town Hall.”

The question arose after operators of the Boat Basin apparently made it clear that the Harbormaster’s office, which sits on an old barge near the marina, was no longer welcome there. Last week, the Town Council voted to direct the Town Manager to explore other possible locations. 

While there was much discussion about how and where to sell shellfish licenses, as well as whether a photo ID was needed on them — Head Shellfish Warden Nancy Ziomek said: “I don’t think that’s something we’re going to solve this summer.”

As for selling the licenses at Town Hall, McConville said that Town Manager Ed Roberge had approved the idea, even though Town Hall is not normally open on weekends. Licenses will be sold there from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. 

Regarding the relocation of the Harbor’s office, McConville simply said: “We needed to make a decision, so we made it.”

While Shellfish Commission members and Harbors Department personnel successfully transplanted 34,000 full-sized hard-shell clams into the Great Salt Pond a few weeks ago, they would still like to see a larger population of soft-shelled clams in the Pond. Previous efforts to seed the pond with soft-shelled clams have not been successful, due to both human and crustacean predation. They are so rare that there has not been an open season on soft-shell clams for the past couple of years.

Ziomek said: “The clam business is getting harder.” Soft-shell seed, which could be grown out in the upweller located at the Block Island Maritime Institute, is hard to get.

“Nurseries are already booked for next year. So we would need to order [soft-shell seed] for 2020,” she said.

Corey said the issue needed to be researched some more, particularly in light of the “green crab problem.”

His statement spurred a discussion on how the green crab population could be reduced.

“They are doing crab baiting,” said Ziomek.

Commissioner Ray Boucher said he would be willing to compost the crabs. As if to answer the question of whether crabs would become land invaders, he said: “You leave them out in sun for an hour and they’re dead.”

Resident Chris Warfel said that he had included green crabs in his proposal for composting at the Transfer Station a few years ago, and that it took six months for the crabs to be fully composted.

Crabs wouldn’t be the only input in the compost, and Boucher said he needed to make a “guesstimate” of the volume of crabs in order to determine how much of the other inputs – wood chips, seaweed – he would need to gather. 

When told there could be a lot of crabs, he said he was okay with that. “I have a big yard.”

Warfel, who owns Sun Farm Oysters and has aquaculture leases in the GSP, was there to seek approval for changes he would like to make to his lease, specifically the one near Cormorant Cove. Warfel moves his oysters from his lease area in the inner ponds for the summer. Per the lease all anchors and gear are to be removed by Columbus Day each year.

Warfel would like for the anchors to be left in place throughout the year, something that would take the guesswork out of properly locating them again each spring. This is particularly challenging as there are six subleases in the area. (The primary lease is to the town.) He also would like the time period extended by about a week in the spring and into November in the fall. This would give him more time to move the oysters, he said. Other changes are to how the leases are marked, and who supplies the markers. 

Corey said: “It’s such an isolated place, why shouldn’t it be permanent?”

Warfel responded that it was “the state” that wanted all the gear to come out, so the area “would be available for other uses. We would take our lines out and just leave the anchors, so we would leave areas open.” 

Another modification Warfel is seeking is to a 24-hour notice rule whereby he must notify Harbormaster Steve Land in advance of going out to the lease to obtain product.  Warfel said he sometimes gets last-minute or “same-day” orders, and always contacts Land in advance. “Steve [Land] never says ‘no,’” said Warfel, “but we want to be in compliance” with the lease.

McConville said Land “just wants to know if it’s you and not somebody else,” taking oysters from the area.

Shellfish Chair Joe Fallon said he had no problem but would like to get Land’s input. “I would like to see all leases better marked,” he said.