Selectmen: Fairhaven company 'abandoned' 100-acre aquaculture site
The Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen questioned Taylor Cultured Seafood, Inc. about abandoning its 100-acre aquaculture farm on Tuesday night after representatives admitted the site hasn't been in compliance with its license for more than a year.
Taylor Cultured Seafood, Inc. is based in Fairhaven, but runs an aquaculture farm in Mattapoisett waters, between Ram Island and the tip of Brandt Island. The permit is the largest permit in the state, and was originally granted to the company in 1998. Since owner Jian Sun took over a year and a half ago, selectmen said, the site has not been maintained.
According to a letter that Mattapoisett Town Administrator Mike Gagne sent to Sun, town officials have reached out verbally and in writing several times about non-compliance issues, but the violations have not been fixed.
The six violations listed in the letter are: failure to mark the boundaries of the licensed area and the boundaries of racks, rafts or floats within the area, failure to maintain a daily presence at or near the licensed area from May 15-Oct. 15, abandonment of licensed area and failure to remove all equipment, failure to use the area denoted in the license, lack of substantial use of the licensed area, plan to use the area for oysters instead of the permitted scallops.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Zach Sun and Toby Adams-Cook met with selectmen to represent the company.
In response to the complaints, Adams-Cook admitted he had only been an employee for about five months, but that they all seemed to be true.
“As far as I’m aware the boundaries are not marked, a daily presence has not been kept, I’m not sure what equipment as at the site…I can’t speak for what area was being used in the past because it wasn’t marked, the use of the licensed area hasn’t been used for at least a year since you since the initial letter…I’m not sure if the original license stipulates scallops specifically.”
Adams-Cook also mentioned that some equipment had been removed because the plan was to switch to equipment for oysters. Sun added that the former president had been an expert in scallops, but the new leadership didn’t have that experience, leading to an unused site.
“So basically for the last year plus the site has gone untouched,” Selectman Tyler Macallister said. “What I’m hearing is that this has been abandoned.”
Gagne said that the state has not issued any permits for the site since the new owners took over.
“I think it does constitute the grounds for abandonment,” he said.
To remedy the situation, the selectmen suggested starting from scratch to be ready for the license renewal deadline in April.
“The way to handle this is to get the place completely cleaned out, get everything out of there, get it remarked so you have an understanding of where you have a right to be, get your application to the state and get us copies,” Macallister said. “Once the state has addressed that we’ll look at it.”
They also suggested cutting down the size of the farm.
“Do you really need 100 acres?” Selectman Jordan Collyer asked. “That parcel is very difficult to maintain…come April I won’t be a proponent of 100 acres.”
Chair Paul Silva agreed, saying he also wouldn’t approve a license for a farm that large.
“No way you’re going to get my vote for 100 acres,” he said. “You can grow a million oysters in an acre and a half. This is the largest permit in the state. Think about a business plan and exactly what you’re going to do.”
The selectmen continued the hearing until the March 13 meeting to give the company time to work on the site and get paperwork together.