Aspiring kelp farmer Amy Tamagini went before the Marion Marine Resources Commission at its June 29, remote access meeting to present her proposal to farm kelp in Marion waters.
“I’d like to have a potential site off of Wing’s Cove,” she told the meeting, summarizing a plan to grow the algae seaweed in depths of 16 feet, using the nearby boat ramp to access the water.
From Wareham but now living in Marion, Tamagini was wild-harvesting quahogs, but said she did not have a license for what she wants to do next. Thus, an Aquaculture Application to farm kelp in a commercial shellfishing enterprise. “I wanted to start a sea farm,” she said.
To that end, Tamagini applied to GreenWave, was accepted and, since October 2019, has received help finding the best areas to farm.
GreenWave, the Connecticut-based regenerative-farming program, partners with emerging sea farmers with its own training and helps them throughout permitting and site-selection processes, along with marketing and harvesting assistance.
The idea, explained Tamagini, is to set a 250-foot line (with 200 feet of kelp seed) in one day in October and harvest in one day around March-April at a time when the water will not have reached 50 degrees Fahrenheit and when harvesting would not interfere with any kayaking or commercial or recreation fishing using the ramp. GreenWave would help at both ends as part of the farmer-training program.
If approved, Tamagini plans to contact town officials and get to work mark her underwater site, but she expects the permitting process to take all year if not into 2021 so her expectations are modest for the immediate. “If I were to put it in this winter, it would be more experimental than anything,” she said.
Her request for a two-acre plot is ambitious, considering Marion only considers a half-acre for such an applicant. But the larger matter where it concerns kelp altogether.
“As of right now, our aquaculture regulations don’t refer to kelp… this is something we’re going to have to address. You are the first,” said Marion Marine Resources Commission Chairman Vincent Malkoski, who works for the Department of Marine Fisheries. “We’re going to have to do our own homework.”
The upsides of kelp farming include pulling nitrogen from the water, a matter taken up this year by Board of Health member Dot Brown in a successful push for a bylaw amendment requiring new septic installations to include an upgrade designed to accomplish that very thing.
Tamagini said she became interested in kelp because it only requires weekly maintenance. grows itself, and is “a very big benefit to the environment.”
“I love this water and didn’t want to see the pollution continue so I wanted to do my little part,” she said. “The line will be underwater so it won’t be in plain sight of anybody or in anybody’s way.”
Tamagini also noted that, assuming the venture is a success, Martha’s Vineyard oyster farmers Dan and Greg Martino have expressed interest in buying her kelp. The Vineyard, she said, cannot produce enough kelp to keep up with the emerging market. Someday, she hopes, she can harvest it farm-to-market with local restaurants.
Commission member Michael Moore cautioned Tamagini to make sure her lines are properly weighted to avoid losing her crop. Commission member Joseph Guard asked what would happen if the seed leaves the site and grows in other areas, would there be any adverse effect?
Tamagini referred to workshops she has attended and explained technique in fastening the line to the underwater rope. “You put fasteners every six inches so there’s no slope to the bottom because if it touches the mud, snails begin to eat it and it becomes foul and you can’t sell it.”
Commission member Pete Borsari asked, after harvest, what remains in the water? Tamagini said everything comes out. Moore asked what about the moorings, to which Tamagini said she believes those also come out but will review the matter.
Tamagini told the commission she would take heed from all suggestions and review her entire proposal, anticipating a series of meetings and revisions.
“The Board of Selectmen will want to hear from us,” Malkoski told Tamagini. “I can’t tell you when we’ll have some updated regulations for that. We’ll try not to be a hindrance for the process.”
In his report to the commission, Harbormaster Isaac Perry said that, since the town got out of the trash business, there have been “unintended consequences.”
Since seasonal residents returned and visitors began populating the area, public trash has become a problem. The fish-cutting station, said Perry, is the only facility that Marion manages where it does not have a trash problem.
“Prior to Waste Management, we called the DPW in a moment’s notice. We don’t have that luxury anymore,” said Perry, referring to the town’s outsourcing of trash removal.
The problem, explained Perry, is not a lack of dumpsters. People are just not using them or they’re overstuffing a smaller one sitting next to a large one that remains less than half full.
“It’s not really the trash from the boaters, it’s the general… all kind of issues we can’t seem to get around,” said Perry, adding that Wareham is encountering a similar problem. “Waste Management employees don’t get out of the truck. I can’t say there isn’t a day when we’re not picking up trash that’s blowing around. It is by far the most frustrating issue.”
On a positive note, Perry reported that recreational fishing is busy this summer.
“On a daily basis people are asking where the sweet spots are. I think people are going to turn over the soil and we’re going to get a good idea on what the shellfish density looks like,” he said.
Perry publicly thanked Donna Hemphill for her tireless work under stressful circumstances in town offices. “She’s done an amazing job of getting us through it. devoting 100 percent of her attention to three things, and the numbers just don’t add up – beach stickers, transfer-station stickers, guest passes, now walk-in traffic as well. She really pulled us through this year. amazingly, I can’t say enough.”
The next meeting of the Marion Marine Resources Commission is scheduled for Monday, July 20.
Marion Marine Resources Commission
By Mick Colageo