JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING AQUACULTURE JOB GROWTH.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Department of Agriculture
REASONS FOR BILL:
Bill is designed to promote the creation of aquaculture jobs, specifically in regards to shellfish, by making it easier for the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture (DoAg) to lease shellfish grounds. Specifically, it is intended to help small existing companies in their development and allow for the creation of new small shellfish companies. The intent is to limit the areas leased to a 25 acre parcel and further spur the creation of more small companies, leading to further aquaculture business and job growth.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky, Department of Agriculture:
Commissioner Reviczky and DoAg spoke in favor of the legislation, stating it will eliminate barriers which prevent small and emerging companies from entering the shellfish business. The commissioner states the creation of smaller-scale, gear-oriented aquaculture jobs can have significant economic benefits for the state. While traditional bottom-culture shell fishing requires large vessels and acreage, cage-culture aquaculture can suffice with smaller vessels and acres. Commissioner Reviczky contends since the operations are smaller, they can produce a premium product and sell at a higher price. The department's position is the oyster industry in the state is in excellent shape with production reaching record levels. Due to this, the department feels there is significant room for growth and this legislation is “an attempt to promote existing smaller companies and improve their economic sustainability.” The changes proposed in the statutes will allow the commissioner to lease 25 acres to any applicant for $25.00 an acre and no subleasing or transfers can occur. Additionally, Commissioner Reviczky notes if the operation ceases, the land will return to the state. Finally, DoAg states changes in the statutes will allow for a company to expand to 500 acres.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Henry N. Talmage, Executive Director, Connecticut Farm Bureau Association:
Mr. Talmage and the Farm Bureau stated their support for the legislation, testifying it will help to expand and diversify the state's aquaculture industry.
Leah Schmalz, Director of Legislative and Legal Affairs, Save the Sound, A Program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment:
Ms. Schmalz and the Fund are in favor of the bill, stating “75% of host payments received under 26-194c” will be “directed towards the Shellfish Fund.” They also contend the legislation will allow the creation of new small businesses and grow the aquaculture enterprises in Long Island Sound. These activities will increase the number of filter feeders in the Sound, each of which will in turn remove nitrogen when harvested.
Sam Fernandes, Oyster Fisherman, Stratford, CT:
Mr. Fernandes is in support of the bill, noting it will help to expand the industry.
Douglas Stabell, AC Stabell Oyster Company:
Mr. Stabell owns a small shellfish company and feels the ability to acquire more acreage will help sustain his business, “Frequent rainfall closures as well as seasonal closures of the properties we currently own effectively put us out of business for days and in some cases weeks at a time. Such closures as you may imagine are an incredible hardship on a small company such as ours. Acquisition of the shellfish grounds proposed in this bill will lessen the impact of such closures by allowing us to harvest when we otherwise would be unable to work.”
Brad Scher, Owner and Captain, Coastal Marine Fisheries:
Mr. Scher owns a small shellfish company and states he has been unable to acquire new acreage due to bidding wars with larger companies. He feels this bill will allow his business the opportunity to grow since he will be able to access more fishing grounds.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Edward Schaeffer