A Hummel Report Investigation
A Delicate Balance
Aquaculture is a $4 million a year industry in Rhode Island that has seen tremendous growth over the past several years. But some who live near a proposed oyster farm in Narragansett say it would be located in the middle of a prime boating and shell fishing area. What does the state say? Jim Hummel goes out on two coastal ponds in South County to take a look for himself.
Point Judith Pond is one of Rhode Island’s jewels, a four-mile stretch of crystal-clear water bordering Narragansett and South Kingstown. Tucked up on the northeastern side is Champlin Cove - adjacent to a housing development called Briggs Farm.
Maul: `A good number of people in this developments have boats right here - they go fishing, they go boating, they pull tubes, water-skiing, clamming, diving, you name it they do it.’’
Jeff Maul is one of them. He’s lived here for the past decade and is often out on the water in his 18-foot powerboat, enjoying the beauty of the cove - and the larger pond beyond it.
Over the years Maul has seen an increasing number of buoys in the water - marking oyster farms approved by the state of Rhode Island. They vary in size, from just an acre or two up to 20 acres. It is land leased by the state and off limits to boaters and other shell fishermen.
Maul: ``Two or three years ago another one appeared over here, just across form us at Ram Island. The following year that one doubled in size. Another one appeared on the other side of Ram Island. This past year there’s probably been a half a dozen or more permits that we’ve seen and we’ve seen these buoys pop up everywhere. They basically rope off an area and it’s no longer public.’’
Maul says he has no issue with aquaculture itself, the official name for oyster farming, which has grown into a $4 million annual industry in Rhode Island - nearly all of it coming from the 52 oyster farms spread across the state’s waters. It’s the placement of one recent proposal that he and his neighbors oppose.