July 18, 2011


Australian aquaculture officer proposes license fee hike



Chairman Paul Silva wants to raise the minimum fee for aquaculture licenses to US$200 per acre before the town approves any new shellfish farms in Mattapoisett waters.


Silva said during Tuesday's (Jul 12) selectmen's meeting that the state has not increased the minimum fee for an aquaculture permit since 1973, and the town cannot afford to monitor and regulate such farms at the rate allowed. Currently the fee is US$5-$25 per acre.


"Tax dollars from the general fund would have to be used to support the venture," Silva said. "I cannot, in good faith, support a 'private, for-profit' venture that uses public waterways and would compete for tax dollars with public safety and education."

Noting he was speaking for himself and not as a board member, he proposed a moratorium on granting any new licenses until state legislators address the problem and the town develops a fair fee schedule.


Silva says he hopes to place a home rule petition request on a fall Town Meeting that the state set higher aquaculture permit fees. He explained his proposed increase is consistent with the rise in inflation from 1973 to 2011.


"Wholesale oyster prices in 1973 were US$1.14 per pound and US$8.28 in 2008, an increase of over 600%," he said. "In FY 2011, Mattapoisett collected US$79,000 in mooring fees and boat excise tax coming from boats on 1,353 moorings or an average of US$59.12 per mooring.


"Adjusting the 1973 fee for inflation and increases in scallops and oyster prices, you arrive at US$165.77 per acre. Since the town is already generating US$236.48 per acre for moorings and the adjusted fee rate (is) based on US$165.77, it would be appropriate to set the per acre rate in the range of US$200."


Tyler Macallister, the other selectman, said he had no comment on the proposal because he has not had time to study it.


The board is currently awaiting the Marine Advisory Board's report as to what areas of Mattapoisett waters would be designated as "recreational" and thus closed to aquaculture farm development. This designation would be incorporated into the town's Waterfront Management Plan and new aquaculture farm regulations.


The regulations would mandate a minimum one-fathom, or six-foot, depth for any new aquaculture use and a US$100 license application fee. Initial applications, if approved, will be limited to a two-acre grant with the possibility of expansion after three years of operation.


The town is responding to the latest request for an aquaculture license, from Jim O'Dowd, whose original plan was for a two-acre oyster farm in the northeast portion of Brandt Island Cove. O'Dowd recently approached the board proposing a new location within Mattapoisett Harbor.

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