MASHPEE – As the tide rose from Gooseberry Island to Punkhorn Point in Popponesset Bay, David Pocknett Jr. and other members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources pulled heavy homemade anchors across the sand.
The moors, which were tied to buoys, were loaded into a nearby Boston Whaler and will be used to mark navigational coordinates for the tribe’s First Light Shellfish Farm, where an estimated 800,000 hatchery baby quahogs were stocked on Wednesday afternoon, said Pocknett, the farm’s assistant manager and member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.
“We’re going to go as far as you can see to drop those buoys and re-mark the parts of our farm,” he said. “Most of our cultivation will be done directly in Popponesset Bay, so we can eventually harvest quahogs and oysters for our tribe.”
The tiny seeds will eventually grow into full-sized quahogs, said CheeNulKa Pocknett, shellfish manager for First Light Shellfish Farm. The product, along with 2 million oysters, which will be seeded this fall, will eventually be sold by the tribe to area restaurants and private consumers.
“This is a big step forward in providing our tribal community with jobs and economic stability for the entire tribe,” CheeNulKa Pocknett said.
Cultivating a vision for shellfish farming
David and CheeNulKa Pocknett, who are brothers, along with Vernon “Buddy” Pocknett, Chairman of the Natural Resources Commission and Co-Farm Manager, and Robert Andrade, Field Assistant for the Department of Natural Resources, cultivated a vision for the farm for the past five years. In addition to the stocking, the farm will also include a fish market and the state of the tribe and the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point or federally certified HACCP facility – a food management system. Food Safety.
The farm will also include a “family area,” along Gooseberry Island, Buddy Pocknett said, which will be dedicated to tribal members. When the oysters and quahogs are mature, community members can harvest the shells to feed their families.
While the farm was originally established in 2009 with a US Fish and Wildlife grant and sold oysters wholesale in 2010, it was non-compliant and lay dormant until recently.
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But when a new tribe administration took over in 2021, CheeNulKa Pocknett said plans for the farm had started to make significant progress.
In the spring of 2021, Natural Resources staff began clearing Popponesset Bay of old crops, tools and cages – remnants of the farm’s establishment in 2010.
“Anything we could salvage, we did. We recycled a lot of cages and ordered a few different water pumps to pump the bottom and get rid of the parasites we had in the mud,” he said. he declares.
The team is also set to pour formwork and concrete floors for the HACCP facility and the fish market. Part of the reason the farm hadn’t been successful in the past, CheeNulKa said, was because the tribe didn’t have its own HACCP facility.
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Without having to pay for outside HACCP services, CheeNulKa said the tribe could sell their products at a higher price. Oysters, for example, will sell for around $1.25 a piece, instead of 30 cents, he said.
“Now we can be our own intermediaries. And sell directly to consumers and directly to restaurants,” he said. “It has the ability to more than double our profits.”
The HACCP facility also allows the tribe to catch fish from commercial fishermen.
“We will pay (fisherman) more than anywhere else in Cape Town for shellfish and fish,” he said. “We want to try to get our foot in the door.”
Environmental impacts of oyster and quahog stocking
Each oyster cleans about eight gallons of water per tide, CheeNulKa Pocknett said. With two tides a day, that’s about 16 gallons per oyster. With only a million oysters in the water and a million quahogs, the farm will be able to filter out nitrates, while providing premium shellfish, he said.
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“We are clearing the waters but still providing the public with a great article,” he said.
In addition, the tribe’s natural resources department will work with local environmental organizations and scientists from the Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography, CheeNulKa Pocknett said, to conduct environmental impact studies and quality testing of the water.
“We felt it was important to partner with and monitor state and federal agencies to ensure public safety and the sustainability of our lands for the future,” he said.
The HACCP facility associated with the farm will also use state-of-the-art water tanks, which will absorb splashes from the fish market and use them to hydrate nearby gardens and greenhouses. Farm staff will administer all-biological sprays and cleaning agents throughout the facility so systems can be properly cleaned and filtered and water can be reused.
“We want to set the standard in Cape Town for responsible sewage, drainage and reusable water,” said CheeNulKa Pocknett.
Grant to support tribal aquaculture industry
What has also helped farms move forward, said Carlton Hendricks, Jr., vice president of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, is a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, funded by the Native Communities Program of the American Rescue Plan. The grant will directly support the tribal aquaculture industry in Mashpee, Hendricks said.
The two-year grant, which was awarded on July 5, will fund three full-time and two part-time positions for Department of Natural Resources staff to focus on shellfish farming initiatives.
The tribe has directly funded the cleanup process for the past year and a half, Hendricks said, and the grant will supplement those ongoing costs, he said.
“We came up with a business plan and I went to meet with Senator (Elizabeth) Warren to really seek out that funding,” he said.
“It allows us to start and employ our tribal members,” Hendricks said. “They know they have a house for two years of financing, so that was a big deal for everyone.”
A portion of the grant resources will also be used to pay for quahog and crustacean seed through the Aquacultural Resource Corporation’s crustacean hatchery in Dennis.
The farm has been a focus for Hendricks after he promised tribesmen he would help revitalize it during his 2021 re-election campaign.
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“The oyster grant we received in 2009 stayed in the red because the farm was not the focus of the previous administration,” he said. “This is an initiative close to my heart and I’m happy to see the farm come to fruition with everyone’s help.”
With the farm project underway, Hendricks said the initiative is an example of the tribe’s commitment to economic sustainability. As construction of the HACCP facility and fish market continues, Hendricks said he will apply for another round of grants to reduce costs for the tribe.
“It’s going to be part of the economic development of our tribe,” he said. “Direct tribal initiatives for members of the tribal community. We have big plans.”
For CheeNulKa Pocknett, who has worked on the farm’s efforts for five years, it has been an honor to lead her community into the next phase of sustainability.
“I have my community behind me, who trust me,” he said. “This is an opportunity to take care of our waterways and show the lucrative possibilities of these fish markets.”
Contact Rachael Devaney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @RachaelDevaney.
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