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Bristol Area Lions learn about Aquaculture 02/08/2016

Posted by DS in meetings, speakers.
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Lion Alfred Ajami (left) thanks David Cheney, owner of Johns River Shellfish for his informative talk on growing oysters.

At their meeting on Feb. 1, the Bristol Area Lions, a guest and their speaker enjoyed meat loaf with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, a tossed salad and biscuits served by caterer Steve Hawks at the club’s winter meeting site, the Hawks House Inn in Walpole.

After dinner, Johns River Shellfish owner David Cheney was introduced by Lion Alfred Ajami. Cheney graduated from Lawrence Academy in Groton, MA in 1988 where he was captain of the varsity football team. He went on to graduate from Bryant University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in marketing. He obtained a certified open water scuba license in 1994.

From 1996 to 2003 Cheney was a New Harbor lobsterman, built a 31 foot lobster boat “Stepping Stone” and in 2003 purchased a custom-built Farrin 37 foot boat “Merrillee C” and fished 800 traps in Zone D. He realized that to be a successful lobster fisherman one needed a 50 foot boat and two stern men to fish further out with 15-trap lines, as the lobster population had shifted to deeper, colder waters.

Cheney purchased 200,000 hatchery seed oysters in 2007 and began his aquaculture ventures. In 2010, he acquired a 4.25-acre lease in South Bristol and in 2012 sold his lobster business and began full-time oystering, purchasing a 26 foot processing boat “Liza Marie and a 16 foot nursery boat “Julia Roth” as well as 150 “Oyster Gro” surface cages.

In 2013, he became a Darling Marine Center assistant in flowing seawater hatchery under Marine Scientist Mick Devon, spawning oysters and growing phytoplankton to maintain oysters. Cheney built 1,000 grow bags to contain a 300% increase in seed stock purchases. In 2014, he was managing 12 seed sites and built a certified walk-in cooler to obtain a wholesale dealers license.
In 2015, Cheney acquired a 3.35-acre lease in Damariscotta north of the Damaricotta-Newcastle bridge near the shellfish middens to grow his seed stock. He fabricated a 20 foot shellfish storage raft with a custom hydraulic grader and water pump to sort and clean oysters within four compartments.

In 2016, he is awaiting approval from the Dept. of Marine Resources for a 2.65-acre lease in South Bristol. Cheney currently is managing one million seed oysters, 650 surface bags, and two shellfish rafts in three separate farm locations. He has one full-time and two part-time employees working year round cleaning bags and maintaining cages to protect the oysters from invasive species. It takes three years for oysters to reach a saleable size.

The speaker for the next meeting, on Monday, March 7, will be Andrew Fenniman, Director of the Lincoln Theater. To make reservations for that meeting at 6 p.m. at the Hawks House Inn, please call Herb Watson at 677-6191. To learn more about the Bristol Area Lions, serving Bristol and South Bristol, call Walt Johansson at 677-2584.

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