The preservation of the ARC hatchery is good news for the state's shellfish industry. The original story can be found here.
Fishermen’s Alliance To Invest In Regional Shellfish Hatchery
Story and photos by Tim Wood
DENNIS --- When John Pappalardo brought the idea of investing
inAquaculture Research Corporation, the region’s largest supplier of
seed shellfish, to the board of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s
Alliance, the initial response was “We don’t do shellfish.”
Pappalardo, the non-profit group’s CEO, responded by reminding board
members that when fin fishing is slow, or fishermen get sidelined by
closures, they traditionally turn to shellfishing to supplement their
“We all do shellfish,” Pappalardo said.
On Monday, a coalition of public and private agencies,including the
Alliance, announced a nearly $5 million plan to preserve as conservation
land 30 of the 39 acres owned by Aquaculture Research Corporation,
better known on the Cape as ARC, as well as provide resources to allow
the aging hatchery – the first of its kind in the country – to modernize
There isn’t a town on the Cape that doesn’t purchase shellfish seed
from ARC’s facility at Chase Garden Creek on Chapin Beach Road in
Dennis. The millions of tiny clams, oysters and scallops provide a
harvest for both commercial and recreational shellfishermen that,
because of changes in ecology and water quality, might not otherwise be
there. ARC also provides seed to most of the Cape’s private aquaculture
operations, which have an annual economic value of $12.5 million.
Chatham, which hosts the Cape’s most productive wild shellfishery,
also buys seed from ARC which is grown and cared for in the town’s
upwelling facility on Stage Harbor.
Bolstering the wild fishery with the seed helps sustain Chatham’s
substantial commercial shellfish industry and gets it through periodic
downturns, said Renee Gagne, Chatham’s shellfish constable. The town
annually buys 2.5 million quahog, a quarter million bay scallop and
100,000 oyster seeds from ARC, funded through the town’s shellfish
“Quahog fishing is the backbone of our wild fishery,” Gagne said
Monday. “When other fisheries fail, [commercial shellfishermen] rely on
Preserving ARC will boost the Cape’s economy and protecting the land
around it preserves the region’s environment, State Senator Dan Wolf,
D-Harwich, said at a press conference held Monday morning at Chapin’s
Restaurant to announce the project.
“This represents one of the biggest conservation opportunities on the
coast of Cape Cod,” he said, and is also “literally a seed of the
future economy of Cape Cod,” helping to ensure the continuation of the
thriving aquaculture and commercial shellfishing industries.
“It is a perfect project,” Wolf said. “It is what I call a win-winwin.”
Preserving ARC’s 39 acres of land will require $3 million for land
purchases and conservation easements. The land extends from Cape Cod Bay
to Chase Garden Creek and is adjacent to Chapin Beach. It includes a
variety of habitats, including barrier beach, coastal dune and wetlands,
and is across from Yarmouth’s Gray Beach. Thirty acres will be
purchased and set aside as conservation property; the remaining nine
acres, which houses the ARC facility and includes several clam growing
lagoons, will be placed under a conservation restriction so that the
only activity allowed there is the hatchery operation.
The state’s 2016 environmental bond bill will provide $1.5 million.
The private Dennis Conservation Trust has committed $325,000 and the
Nature Conservancy another$250,000. Massachusetts Conservation Land Credits will offset the cost of the project by $75,000.
Funding from three other public agencies is awaiting final approval.
The Barnstable County budget that was set to be voted by the Assembly of
Delegates Wednesday includes $250,000 for the project; Dennis town
meeting will act on a $400,000 community preservation fund request on
May 5; and Yarmouth’s town meeting will be asked to appropriate
$200,000 in community preservation funds May 2. There are a lot of
moving parts, Wolf commented, but he said he’s confident everything will
fall into place and the project will move ahead.
Preserving the land is just one part of the project. The other aspect
is preserving ARC so it can continue to meet 80 percent of the seed
shellfish demand in Massachusetts. The facility, established in 1960,
need modernizing andupgrading;
it has operated at full capacity for the past four years and the demand
continues to grow, said president Richard Kraus, one of three owners.
Agroup that includes the Fishermen’sAlliance, Wellfleet Shellfish
Promotion and Tasting (SPAT) and private investors is raising $1.5 to
$2 million to build a new hatchery, plans for which are on the drawing
board, said ARC Chief Business Officer Rob Doane. The funds will be
invested in ARC in exchange for a 92 percent stake in the company, with
the current owners retaining the remaining 8 percent. There will be a
new board of directors representing theinvestors
which will control the company – Pappalardo said the Alliance would
have a representative on the board – and new management will be put in
place after the deal is completed. Doane said the current owners will
stay on as employees to help with the transition.
The facility uses a considerable amount of energy to raise water
temperatures to levels necessary for shellfish to spawn, and a long-term
solution to make it more energy efficient and sustainable will be
included in the plans, Doane said. An earlier plan to install a wind
turbine met with opposition and was withdrawn.
The aim is to have the new facility built in time for the 2016 season,
Doane said. An existing warehouse will remain on the property. Plans
also call for including a shellfish research and education program as
part of the new operation.
While ARC employes 18 people year round, the economic impact of a
healthy shellfishing industry extends beyond the company. According to
the Cape Cod Extension, there are 1,400 commercial shellfishermen on
the Cape. Statewide, the aquaculture industry generated 909 jobs and was
valued at $25.4 million in 2013, generating $45.5 million in economic
activity. On the Cape, some 70 shellfish farms generate $12.5million annually.
The new facility will allowARC to double production
of oyster, scallop and hard-shell clam seed. Currently, Kraus said,
it turns out between 100 and 110 million seed a year. Inside the
hatchery, wooden walkways over floor drains lead to several rooms
containing large vats where shellfish spawn and millions of seeds
grow. Technician examine the microscopic seed – some just a few days old
– in a laboratory to ensure that they are healthy. Water quality is
monitored constantly. In another room, algae, necessary to nourish the
seed shellfish, is grown in dozens of seven-foot-tall glass vats
surrounded by fluorescentlights to replicate sunlight.
Continued on Page 10
• Founded in 1960 in Dennis.
• Only commercial shellfish hatchery in Massachusetts.
• Full capacity output of 100-110 million shellfish seed annually.
• Species grown include American oyster, quahog, and bay scallop
ARC owner Dick Kraus explains how algae is grown in large tanks to provide food for the shellfish throughout the growth cycle.
and Islands Senator Dan Wolf addresses a press conference announcing
the plans to preserve the ARC operation Monday at Chapin’s Restaurant in
Chatham Shellfish Constable Renee Gagne examines seed quahogs at the ARC facility in Dennis.
Continued from Page 5
It’s an exacting process, Kraus explains. Juvenile oysters, for
instance, develop a foot after about 12 day, settle to the bottom, and
excrete a cement-like substance. Once they affix to something, they
never move. Before that happens the seed are placed in a bins with
powdered shells, which they attach to and can then be moved.
Shellfish naturally spawn in the summer, so it’s necessary to raise
the temperature of water pumped in from Cape Cod Bay to 75 to 80
degrees. “We’re trying to replicate summer, Kraus said. Wellfleet Harbor
is the only place in Massachusetts where oysters spawn in the wild, he
ARC also operates a satellite site on Stage Harbor in Chatham, but the
lease on that facility runs out this year, Doane said. The company is
investigating other locations along Nantucket Sound, preferable because
of the good water quality and high water temperatures, including
Wychmere Harbor in Harwich.
“We can’t meet the demand as it is now,” Doane said ofthe need for the new hatchery and additional facilities.
ARC also provides bags of broken shells that are soaked in the oyster
spat, resulting in more than 10,000 oysters per bag. The bags are opened
and the oysters spread in bays to try to recreate oyster reefs to help
reduce nitrogen in the water; Falmouth and Mashpee are working on pilot
projects using shellfish for nitrogen reduction.
Kraus, who started working at ARC in 1973, said it was the first
commercial hatchery of its kind in the country and is still operated
today much as it was when it was begun in 1960, before environmental
regulations were in place that would not have allowed an industrial
operation in the middle of a beach.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind site that probably can never be replicated again,” he said. “Certainly not on Cape Cod.”
SPAT will invest $125,000 in the new facility, the Alliance will
contribute $250,000 with the remaining funds provided by private
investors and bank loans. Pappalardo said it’s a natural evolution for
theAlliance, which initially concentrated on the off-shore fishery and
has since become involved with issues in state waters. The in-shore
fishery seems a logical next step. The organization has also purchased
fisheries permits to help maintain the culture of community-based
commercial fishing on the Cape, and he sees investing in ARC as an
extension of that. He said fund raising should be wrapped up in the new
“Losing the hatchery is not an option,” he said. “This is our future,
so we’ll have an answer when one fishery is in trouble – pick up a
A video detailing the project can be viewed at zygotedigitalfilms. wistia.com/medias/0us8a2rqv7.
of ARC’s 39 acres of waterfront property in Dennis will be set as aside
as conservancy land in a public-private partnership announced Monday.
The remaining land will be reserved for use as a shellfish hatchery and