News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 30, 2017 and Castine Patriot, November 16, 2017
Scoping session brings up Bagaduce River concerns
Clearwater Seafoods begins application process

More oysters in the Bagaduce?

A November 6 scoping session at Penobscot Community School allowed Joe Rego, of Clearwater Seafood, Inc. of Orland, to describe a proposed lease to grow oysters in the Bagaduce River, east of Nab Island. Pictured, Tom Atherton displays one of 700 bags the proposed aquaculture site would hold.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

An approximately three-acre proposed Bagaduce River standard aquaculture lease raised concerns about the growing number of leases in the 12 mile, 1,000 acre river that borders Penobscot, Brooksville, Castine and Sedgwick.

Joe Rego, owner of Clearwater Seafoods, Inc. of Orland, presented his plan to about 20 area residents at a November 6 scoping session at Penobscot Community School.

The trend mirrors a marked increase in aquaculture leases statewide. Currently 29 leases are in some part of the Department of Marine Resources application process, including a proposed 23-acre lease in Bagaduce River’s Northern Bay awaiting final decision. The applicant, Michael Briggs of Taunton Bay Oyster Co., attended the meeting, as did Little Island Oyster Co. owners Tonyia and Frank Peasley.

“I don’t think anyone has a problem with the scale of aquaculture on the river, but how do you stop the increase?” Penobscot resident Tom Stewart said.

Currently, at least two standard aquaculture leases are active in the Bagaduce River covering about 10 acres: one by Little Island Oyster Co. for 5.38 acres, and one by Jesse Leach’s Bagaduce Oyster Co. for 4.03 acres.

Rego currently holds three LPA leases at his proposed site east of Nab Island, outside of the channel leading to Bagaduce Reversing Falls. He proposes using 700 suspended bags and bottom nets to grow American/Eastern oysters in an area 100 times the size of his current LPAs.

“It sounds like a lot but it’s not,” Rego said. “We’re not proposing 100 times more gear…but twice [the amount currently used].”

Penobscot Shellfish Committee Chairman Baily Bowden raised concerns about oysters spawning and affecting local clam beds and of DMR shellfish regulations designed to address MSX disease in oysters. MSX is lethal to oysters but does not affect clams or humans.

“Your industry is now affecting my life,” Bowden said.

Rego said he plans to use sterile oyster stocks so spawning oysters won’t be a concern.

Penobscot Chairman of Selectmen Paul Bowen asked how the proposed operation would benefit his town.

Rego just shook his head. “Will it give some kids summertime work? Absolutely,” he said.

“The legislature has effectively limited the municipalities from having an authority at all…But we get the aggravation,” Bowen said.

Standard aquaculture leases run for 10 years and can cover up to 100 acres. With the scoping session complete, Rego must now submit an application. Then, DMR scientists will perform a site visit and issue a report before the DMR sets a public hearing.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the number of active standard aquaculture leases in the Bagaduce River.