Chatham Town Selectmen have approved a deepwater aquaculture grant for experimental mussel farming off Monomoy Island.
Though new fishing grants are prohibited, town leaders voted to grant a "change in use" for an existing permit with Chatham Fisheries, allowing the Eldredge family of fishermen to farm mussels in cylindrical sock-like webs. The webs will house mussel seeds that filter the water, adding an environmentally friendly component to the growing mussel industry.
One requirement of the grant is that Chatham Fisheries report their progress to the town advisory committee. The findings could be used to spur growth of the mussel farming industry and allow other fishermen to participate.
The mussel farm will occupy a rectangular area 100 feet wide by 200 feet long north of Monomoy.
More than two-thirds of all mussels consumed in the U.S. are exported from Canada, although mussels are grown all over the world and closer to home, there are small mussel farms off Martha's Vineyard and coastal Rhode Island.
The group has the support of Scott Lindell from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. He told the Board mussels present a new economic opportunity for a fishing industry under increasing pressure to reduce yield.
Mussels are a bargain of the sea, usually selling for $2.99 per pound. Steamed with water, white wine and chopped onion, steamed mussels are a classic appetizer.