The Massachusetts Shellfish Initiative has developed a five-year strategic plan that could overhaul the management of the state's shellfish resources, including a recommendation for a dedicated state shellfish laboratory.
The 2021-2025 strategic plan, developed by the 21-member MSI Task Force that includes Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, recommends increased public funding for additional staff and resources at the Division of Marine Fisheries. It also seeks more public funds to promote "the economic, environmental and social benefits" of the state's shellfish resources.
"In many cases existing state and local government resources provide insufficient support to adequately manage the state's shellfish resources and shellfish fisheries," the draft of the plan stated.
The inability to keep pace, according to the strategy plan, is daunting "given the increasing complexity of management challenges related to climate change, increasing population density, shellfish harvest closures and higher rates of veterinary disease and shellfish-related human illnesses."
The task force said its recommendation for a fully-funded, state laboratory would address evolving challenges by expanding technical support, improving laboratory equipment and provide for specialized staffing.
"A dedicated and fully funded laboratory would address some of the issues limiting the expansion of harvest opportunities, as well as public health protection of emerging pathogens of concern," the plan stated. "The expansion of in-state laboratory capabilities provides efficiency for routine work and in establishing biosecurity zones for certification of in-state shellfish movement."
The document also explores methods for increasing collaboration among shellfish managers at the local, state and federal levels.
"The need for enhanced communication and coordination between local, state and federal agencies and stakeholders is a recurring theme within the MSI strategic plan," the executive summary stated. It said previous comments from public scoping sessions "highlighted the need to increase the capacity for stakeholder engagement and enhance transparency in the management process."
The draft document is available at the massshellfishinitiative.org website.
The task force is accepting written public comment on the plan until 5 p.m. on March 5. It has scheduled a webinar public meeting on Feb. 22 at 6 p.m., where it will detail the plan, accept verbal comment and answer questions.
The meeting login link and passcodes for the webinar also are available on the Massachusetts Shellfish Initiative website.
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT