Living with oyster farms: arguments against NIMBYism

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Different methods of oyster propagation explained by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System

How can oyster farming peacefully co-exist with waterfront property owners and reduce nitrogen levels in coastal ecosystems? A research project conducted by Dr. Dan Rogers of Stonehill College with the help of the Falmouth shellfish constable at the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve gathered data and resulted in the publication of a “A Best Practices Guide for Nitrogen Remediation using Oyster Aquaculture.”

If you’re contemplating writing a letter to the Town of Barnstable to support the 175-year tradition of commercial oyster farming in the Three Bays estuary, but want more facts to support your opinion, I recommend the paper linked above.

To get a sense of the type of arguments and exaggerated claims wielded by waterfront property owners in the name of preserving their property values, I suggest reading this letter by Chris Matteo, president of the North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association, refuting the claims made by a retired judge who moved to the coast wanted to protect his view.

No oyster farmer is wanting to ruin a sunset view. In fact, we love them too. But here’s the thing… you don’t own the viewshed. You don’t even lease it. In fact, the shellfish industry made a good faith effort to negotiate some parameters with DCM for floating structures before that effort was blown up by ignorant NIMBY folks. At any time, an oyster farmer could have simply purchased an old rusty barge of any size and anchored it on ones’ lease and conducted farming activities aboard. Still can. If you were a judge, read up on maritime law. If you’re bold enough, I suggest you try to change it. Good luck! (Basically, there is nothing you can do to someone anchoring in your viewshed, even if they keep smelly shrimp heads on board baking in the sun, just to spoil your sunset cocktails).

Chris Matteo, March 2, 2022 from a letter to the editor of Carteret Country News-Times

The town of Barnstable can put this issue to rest for once and for all by taking the following steps:

  • Encourage aquaculture in the new local comprehensive plan (LCP) now under development by the planning department. The most recent LCP (dated 2010) devoted one paragraph to aquaculture and stated: “As these same coastal areas become more desirable for recreational users, conflicts have arisen. This conflict must be examined and resolved through a thoughtful public process.”
  • Adopt the state’s model Right to Farm bylaw and extend it to include local aquaculture and shellfish grants
  • Educate real estate agents, builders, and owners of waterfront property about the benefits of aquaculture and recreational shellfishing to preserve property values and restore compromised waters in front of their homes
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