OAK BLUFFS – July 22, 2011 – State and local officials today announced a partnership agreement between the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game’s (DFG) Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group (MVSG, which will greatly enhance efforts to restore shellfish such as bay scallops, oysters, and quahogs in Martha’s Vineyard waters.
“I appreciate the assistance provided by State Representative Timothy Madden and work of Marine Fisheries staff in crafting an innovative partnership that will bolster shellfishing on the Vineyard,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin.
DMF’s partner in the project, MSVG, is a non-profit organization comprised of the shellfish departments in the six Island towns. The group will be authorized to use the first floor of the Martha’s Vineyard Marine Fisheries Station in Oak Bluffs for shellfish culture and research. MVSG will have exclusive use of three rooms April through October.
DMF provided $250,000 in infrastructure improvements to the former state lobster hatchery in Oak Bluffs to accommodate shellfish nursery operations by the MVSG. Being done in two phases, renovations began July 1 and are scheduled for completion by the end of the calendar year. Retrofits include extensive plumbing for seawater, replacement of pumps and pipes, and the upgrading and installation of fiberglass tanks.
“I’m very pleased to see a hatchery revive on Martha’s Vineyard,” said Cape and Islands State Sen. Dan Wolf. “Kudos to all the local shellfish officials who came together, working with the Division of Marine Fisheries, to get this facility with a great tradition and legacy back up and running. John Hughes no doubt will be proud!”
The State Lobster Hatchery in Oak Bluffs was built in 1949 under supervision of renowned lobster culturist, John Hughes. Hughes, who at age 90 still resides on Martha’s Vineyard, directed the agency’s development and operation of the facility through 1978. During this time, Hughes pioneered successful techniques to raise lobsters that brought preeminent mariculture status to the island facility. Many of his innovations were used to develop similar facilities in other parts of the world. On his retirement, operation of the lobster hatchery was assumed by Hughes assistant, Mike Syslo, who is also a Martha’s Vineyard resident.
“First of all, I want to thank Commissioner Griffin and DMF Director Paul Diodati for being so responsive and supportive of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group,” said State Rep. Timothy Madden. “They saw an opportunity that would not only benefit the MVSG and help them reach their goals, but also would benefit the Division of Marine Fisheries by revitalizing sustainable shellfish programs.”
The MVSG will raise shellfish to be placed in field nursery systems throughout Island waters. These shellfish will be protected from predators for one growing season before being planted in public shellfish beds where licensed shellfishermen will be able to harvest then once they reach legal size.
For over 30 years, the MVSG’s community-based resource management program has sought to preserve and expand the Island’s traditional shellfisheries. Key to this effort has been the operation of a solar energy-assisted shellfish hatchery on Lagoon Pond in Tisbury, the application of innovative aquaculture technology and a continuing vigilance to improve and maintain the good surface water quality crucial to a viable shellfish industry.
For the past 20 years, this non-profit consortium has pursued a community resource development program for the protection and enhancement of the Island’s economically important shellfish species such as quahogs, bay scallops, and oysters. The new partnership with DMF at the state facility will greatly increase the amount of shellfish that can be produced, and allow the consortium to raise shellfish to a larger size before releasing them to island waters, which is expected to improve productivity.
Lobster aquaculture and research at the Lobster Hatchery ceased in 2002, DMF decided that it could not combat challenges of waterborne disease and limited resources that diminished the agency’s ability to accomplish its benchmark goals. For the past decade, the Hatchery has provided office support for DMF Sport Fish and Shellfish projects and a base of operation for the Massachusetts Office of Environmental Law Enforcement.
Local interest to use the state’s facility for educational purposes, research, finfish aquaculture and other purposes has grown over the years, but discussions to identify best use of the site became more focused a year ago with help from State Rep. Madden, who, after being contacted by a number of interested island residents, began discussions with DMF officials.
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth’s natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth’s rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.