Harbormaster to propose new aquaculture regulations

Apr 23, 2019

Those hoping to operate an aquaculture business in Wareham could soon have new rules and regulations to follow — but not those proposed in a citizens’ petition at town meeting.

The citizen’s petition would have mandated that those applying for aquaculture grants would have had to notify all abutters within 1,000 feet of the proposed farm.

Both the Board of Selectmen and the Financial Committee voted not to recommend the passage of the article, in large part because Harbormaster Garry Buckminster is working on extensive regulations of these businesses.

“This policy will safeguard Wareham homeowners affected by acres of bags and cages floating on the surface of our abutting waterways,” said Donna Foley, who proposed the article. “Written abutter notification is a must when the peaceful enjoyment of our homes navigable and recreational waters will be disrupted due to the placement of a commercial marine farming development abutting our neighborhoods.”  

Following discussions about the cost and practicality of the article — a different version of which was voted down at a prior town meeting — voters heard from Jacqui Nichols, the director of assessment, about what the article would cost the town.

Although the applicant would pay the printing and shipping costs for notifying neighbors, the assessor’s office would be responsible for drawing up the list of abutters. According to Nichols, developing the list required by the article is beyond the capabilities of the department’s computer system and would have to be done by hand — an additional strain on the department, which she said is already stretched thin.

Buckminster said that he has been developing an in-depth set of guidelines that would regulate aquaculture businesses in Wareham that only need to be approved by the Board of Selectmen, and that the concerns brought up by residents will be addressed in those guidelines. He also clarified that his guidelines would not allow aquaculture grants in areas zoned for recreational shellfishing.

Currently, there is a temporary moratorium on new aquaculture grants. Buckminster said he is waiting for approval on 16 pages of aquaculture regulations he has written, which will go before the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, town council, the Board of Selectmen, and a public hearing.

Furthermore, whether the town voted to approve the article or not, officials said that it would mainly be considered as an advisement of the votes’ wishes as the Board of Selectmen decides whether or not to approve Buckminster’s regulations.

The article was voted down and called as such by Moderator Claire Smith. Residents called for a count which affirmed the failure of the vote, with 29 yes votes and 73 no votes.