HARWICH — The sugar kelp farm that Mark Kelleher has been operating off the Herring River in Nantucket Sound will be expanded this year with the addition of juvenile bay scallops.
Kelleher received approval from the conservation commission last week to experiment with growing bay scallops as part of the kelp farm the commission approve in 2018.
Kelleher told the commission he was somewhat disappointed with the growth of kelp this year. He said kelp can grow up to eight feet long, but his kelp grew to only three feet. Kelleher said he harvested 300 to 400 pounds of kelp, and with the COVID-19 pandemic he was unable to sell it.
There are not enough nutrients flowing out of the Herring River, Kelleher said, thus not enough growth to establish a long-term business. Kelleher said he moved his kelp lines a little closer to the river last year in search of more nutrients.
He plans to added five lantern bags of juvenile bay scallops on a 25-foot section of his kelp lines, and asked the commission for permission to leave that section in the water year-round. When the kelp farm was approved he was permitted to locate two 200-foot kelp lines in the waters outside the Herring River from November to May. The lines are stabilized using buoys and anchors to keep them seven to eight feet below the surface so as not to impede navigation.
When Kelleher first applied for the kelp lines, navigation was a topic of discussion given the heavy boating activity in the summer months out of the Herring River and nearby Allen Harbor. Kelleher pointed out at the time that his lines would be removed during the summer boating season.
But the commission earlier this month wanted to make sure the year-round bay scallop plan was appropriate. The waterways committee has had trouble obtaining quorums in recent meetings, but Conservation Administrator Amy Usowski reported to the commission last week that Harbormaster John Rendon sees no navigation problem with the short section to be use for the scallops.
Kelleher said the scallops will be located in waters off Pleasant Street Beach. Bay scallops have had a history of growth in the area. In years past bay scallops could be harvested in the patches of eelgrass just off shore.
The project is considered an experiment to see how well scallops will grow, Kelleher said. The scallops cannot be sold; he plans to provide them to the natural resources department for use in propagating a section of the Herring River.
There is another bay scallop project taking place in the Herring River. Daniel Ward of Ward AquaFarms in North Falmouth and Herring River homeowner Jeffrey Lang have teamed up to grow bay scallops beneath Lang’s dock on the river.
Kelleher said he will be purchasing his bay scallop seed from Aquaculture Research Corporation of Dennis, which has a hatchery in the former fish shanty on the Herring River.