October 4, 2008
Aquaculture Plan is OK
By Thomas A Isles
To the Editor:Your Sept. 5 article regarding Suffolk County's proposed shellfish aquaculture program in Peconic and Gardiners Bay, entitled "Shell Game: Baymen Battle over Proposed Program," was way off base in the characterization of the proposed program. In particular, I would like to address two points: the scale of the program and the agricultural nature of the operation.
The first paragraph of the article states the program will create, "thousands of private shellfish farms."
This is completely incorrect. In fact, the proposal provides for a maximum of 60 acres a year of new lease sites, which translates to six to 12 leases, depending on the lease size, limited to either five or 10 acres each, and also establishes a cap of 600 acres of new leases during the first 10 years of the program. Existing aquaculture sites and oyster grant lands would add to the total number of potential leases, but would still total only about 200 leases and encompass an area less than 2.9 percent of the 110,000 acres of underwater land within the county's authority.
The second misrepresentation in the article is the characterization of the activity as the "industrialization" of the bay. This is also incorrect. Aquaculture is an agricultural activity as defined by New York state law and, in fact, has been conducted in the Peconic Bay system for over 100 years. Most aquaculture operations are barely noticeable except for buoys and working marine farmers tending to their crops - the oysters, clams and scallops many of us enjoy.
The process to create the program has been deliberative and, yes, time consuming. This has been aided with the formation of an advisory committee of 17 citizens representing broad stakeholder interests, including representatives from all five East End towns, environmental officials, baymen, aquaculture operators and academia. With this broad representation and a thorough process of environmental review, the program has been proposed at a scale that will have minimal negative impact and provide positive economic, cultural and environmental benefits.
Aquaculture is sustainable marine farming - a way of not just taking from the sea but also replenishing resources. The program developed by the advisory committee is a small-scale, limited program that will enhance the marine environment while adding jobs and economic activity to the region.
Thomas A. Isles is director of planning for Suffolk County and the chairman of the Aquaculture Lease Program Advisory Committee.
Originally published by Thomas A. Isles.
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