Island Updates

Aquaculture comes to Hurricane!!

This blog is the combined efforts of our Science and Research Director and our Director of Education. Cait Cleaver gives us the perspective of how the Limited Purpose Aquaculture (LPA) licensing process proceeded and Dr. Jenn Page adds in the actual implementation including the fun times we have had with students in their classroom and on the Island!  Enjoy!

Limited Purpose Aquaculture process (Caitlin Cleaver)

In August 2015, I started the Limited Purpose Aquaculture license (LPA) application process to secure a small site where HICSL could experiment with growing sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima). This is part of our work developing aquaculture curriculum with support from SEANET (the Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network). The LPA process was relatively simple in comparison to the application process for larger aquaculture leases that require public hearings and site visits by state scientists. The LPA process still covered quite a bit of ground to minimize potential environmental impacts of our small-scale aquaculture setup – both the ecological and the social in terms of competing with other uses such as commercial fishing in that particular area.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) reviews these applications and coordinates with the other state and federal agencies that have varying levels of jurisdiction over uses in our oceans and protecting the natural environment. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers ensures that the equipment and gear used in the proposed aquaculture operation does not interfere with basic navigation. In addition, as applicants, we reached out to staff at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to make sure that our proposed site was not within a certain distance of an eagle’s nest and we checked the DMR’s water quality maps, which determine whether or not you can grow shellfish in certain areas. Hurricane is in an area where growing shellfish is prohibited; however, this designation does not prevent us from growing sugar kelp.

Map of site for DMR application

A large part of the application was developing a series of maps to fulfill the application requirement of submitting a vicinity map. We generated these images using Google Earth and nautical charts. The map had to include the following elements:

  • Location of proposed site
  • 300’ radius circle around site
  • 1,000’ radius circle around site
  • North Arrow (indicate true or magnetic north)
  • Show depth contours and indicate mean low water (MLW) and mean high water (MHW) on all land adjacent or nearest the site
  • Ebb and Flood directions
  • Scale used on plan
  • Distance to DMR water quality closure lines

Overhead view of the proposed site

And, we had to label the following components if they were within our map:

  • Federal navigation projects or anchorages
  • Navigational channels
  • Structures
  • Aquaculture leases or licenses (LPAs)
  • Anchorages or moorings
  • State or federal beaches
  • Docking Facilities

Side view of the proposed site

In addition, we had to provide overhead view and cross-sectional views of the gear configuration we planned to implement at the site. We based our setup on recommendations we received from Paul Dobbins of Ocean Approved.

An important component of this work is making sure community members and others are aware of the project. To notify the Hurricane Island landowners, we mailed them the entire application. I also went to the October meeting of the Vinalhaven board of selectmen to notify them of our intentions to implement an educational aquaculture site on the northwest side of the island. They were supportive of the work and we made sure that our gear would not interfere with the fishing activities of Vinalhaven lobstermen.

Our license was officially secured in November and we are in the process of renewing it as every LPA expires on December 31st of each year. It’s definitely an exciting project for HICSL and we hope to continue doing this work! Now let’s hope the sugar kelp grows!

Student driven aquaculture (Dr. Jenn Page)

Harvesting kelp with Paul Dobbins

As mentioned by Cait, this started waaaay back in the summer when we were visited by Paul Dobbins, a wonderful aquaculturist and educator who is the owner of Ocean Approved.  Paul and his wife spent the day on Hurricane and visited several sites around the Island to help us evaluate their suitability for various types of aquaculture (e.g., kelp, oysters, scallops, etc.).  We settled on a spot on the northern end of the island that was relatively sheltered and out of main travel/work areas but would still have significant water flow to make our first endeavor with kelp babies as successful as possible.  Paul then graciously took me on a kelp expedition out of Boothbay Harbor early this fall to help me identify and collect quality reproductive tissue.

Students harvesting kelp spores

The next few days were spent working with students from Deer Isle-Stonington High School’s (DISHS) Pathway program to release the kelp spores from the reproductive tissue and establish them on spools of line that were set up in their classroom.  It was then up to the students and their teacher (Seth Laplant) to care for the kelp babies until they were ready to be released. This involved a lot of maintenance of the tank and a significant amount of troubleshooting with Paul as they had to figure out why the babies weren’t growing as fast as we had anticipated. Some extra light and nutrients later they had amazing growth and their line looked almost identical to the “backup” line that Paul gave us from his own growth stock. 

Before the winter waves got too vicious, the DISHS students came out to Hurricane and selected the best spool they had to put in the water. Because we only have one mainline in the water and we wanted to maximize our potential for success, students strung half the mainline with their kelp and the other half with the backup kelp from Paul. We are very hopeful that both lines will have successful winter growing seasons and we look forward to getting the students back out in the spring to harvest the kelp!

A great day on the water putting our new sea farm in the water

Kelp under the microscope at the time it was put in the field

Subscribe in a reader