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Massachusetts Aquaculture White Paper - Executive Summary
AQUACULTURE: The manipulation of marine or freshwater organisms and/or their environment before eventual release, harvest, or capture; the controlled cultivation and harvest of aquatic animals and plants. (USDA National Aquaculture Development Plan, 1983).
In Massachusetts, the aquaculture industry is small, but growing steadily. Bush and Anderson estimate that aquaculture contributed approximately $8 million to the Commonwealth economy in 1992. The industry is roughly split between inland and marine aquaculture in terms of economic value. Most industry analysts would agree that there has been a steady rise in production since 1992, both in the marine and inland sectors.
Marine aquaculture in the state is presently limited to the cultivation of shellfish (quahogs, oysters and scallops) for commercial, research, and propagation purposes. There are no coastal fish farms or ocean ranches in the state and only very limited work, primarily for research purposes, is dedicated to seaweed culture. Proposals for offshore fish farms and shellfish culture have just recently been proposed in the state and are undergoing permit review. The inland aquaculture industry is comprised primarily of a handful of highly technical recirculating facilities located mainly in the western part of the state (with one on Cape Cod). These facilities produce hybrid striped bass, tilapia, trout and other finfish. Additionally, there are a number of small pond and flow-through facilities located in Massachusetts.
The wild stock of both finfish and shellfish is currently dwindling, a trend that, despite the imposition of limits and closed seasons, has shown every indication of continuing. The recent closures of groundfishing on George's Bank are indicative of a larger problem both in Massachusetts and to some extent, worldwide. While fish stocks are undeniably declining, the demand for high quality marine protein for a variety of uses continues to grow. Aquaculture has been viewed by many as a means to address the gap between wild seafood availability and consumer demand. The development and support of the aquaculture industry is therefore a priority for the state of Massachusetts, not only in terms of increased seafood supply but also as a source of employment, particularly in rural areas.
State aquaculture programs are a reflection of local attitudes for or against the industry. These attitudes are created and influenced by historic and cultural trends, traditional uses, education, environmental and economic conditions, and the manner in which a state chooses between conflicting uses and limited resources. Massachusetts has, to date, reacted to the aquaculture industry on a case by case basis with very little attention given to the larger picture. As a result, the state has been viewed by many as an impediment to growth in the industry. This viewpoint is due, in part, to a complex and duplicative permitting system as well as a paucity of technical assistance provided by state agencies.
With significant attention now being paid to the potential of the aquaculture industry, the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, acting on behalf of the Governor, has initiated this study to identify how the state can proactively assist the aquaculture industry. The purpose of this report is to review the status of the aquaculture industry in the state both from a biological and technological standpoint as well as from a legal/regulatory perspective.
This White Paper includes information on the biology, technology, support systems, water quality, seafood safety, legal, and economic aspects of the aquaculture industry. Problems attendant to aquaculture are distilled in the Conclusion section.
This report reflects the aquaculture industry today in Massachusetts in that the focus of much of the review is on species currently being cultured. It should be kept in mind that the aquaculture industry in Massachusetts is in the process of rapid growth and change.
The White Paper addresses both inland and coastal (marine) aquaculture. A distinction must be drawn between inland aquaculture and coastal aquaculture. Inland aquaculture utilizes ponds, tanks, and enclosures that are dependent upon the aquaculturist for maintenance of water quality, food supply, and waste removal. Inland aquaculture is generally (with the exception of state-run hatcheries and stocking facilities) conducted on private property by private culturists. The primary product of inland aquaculture is finfish.
Coastal aquaculture utilizes enclosures, cages, or pens for mobile marine species such as silver and Atlantic salmon; baskets, rafts, racks, and trays for surface culture or water column (off-bottom) culture for sessile molluscan shellfish; nursery trays and pens placed on the bottom for the cultivation and grow-out of seed shellfish or placement of cultch (natural or artificial) for attachment of molluscan spat. All coastal aquaculture uses existing, unaltered water.
The private and public interests affected by competing uses of the sea, the coast, and the tidelands raise complex issues. The alteration, whether temporary or permanent, and private use of public resources provides a broad basis for potential conflict if not managed prudently. Similarly on land, aquaculture is in many ways a complex activity with potentially controversial implications. It is the intent of this study to both characterize the state of the aquaculture industry in Massachusetts today and establish a foundation for effective management of a diverse and sustainable industry for the future.
Click here to go back to the Table of Contents for The Massachusetts Aquaculture White Paper
Published: September 1995