The Block Island Times

Shellfish Commission digs in with new leadership

By Judy Tierney | Jan 29, 2013

The Shellfish Commission on Tuesday elected Herman “Bo” Gempp as its new chair, and Pete Tweedy as its co-chair. Gempp’s first order of business was to reorganize the commission, appointing commissioners Joe Fallon and Jon Grant to take charge of restocking the clam flats and other restoration projects (“product and production”); Lois Bendokas to act as liaison to the Coastal Resources Management Council, Department of Environmental Management, Roger Williams College and Town Hall; and Jon Swienton and Ardys Filippone to cover education and enforcement. The chair and co-chair will handle administrative tasks.

Restoration reports

Sample digs at the commission’s soft shell clam restoration site in Cormorant Cove revealed “plenty of clams,” Gempp said, noting they have grown about an inch. “They will be good in a year if they last.”

A motion was made and passed to appropriate $1,500 to order more soft shell clam seedlings. If they are available, double last year’s amount will be requested. Gempp requested 25,000 scallops also.

A letter from Wendell Corey of the Block Island Marine Institute (BIMI) informed the commission that Roger Williams College will be bringing its restoration oysters to grow on the BIMI’s oyster farm lease. Roger Williams has also have hired a marine biologist. Tweedy said they need volunteers, not just commission members, to get involved.


Harbormaster Steve Land handed out copies of last year’s budget with an eye toward putting together this year’s. Gempp asked whether the shellfish warden hours could be increased, and after a review the group determined that the assistant shellfish warden position should be increased from 24 to 30 hours. The warden position is already set at 40 hours. Land remarked he would rather have 40 hours for both, as they already put in that much time. The Shellfish Commission’s revenues, insofar as they reflect income from shellfishing licenses, are far greater than their expenditures, Land noted.


Having reviewed the state and local laws on commercial shellfish licenses, Gempp asked Commission Clerk Shirlyne Gobern to sent a letter to the town clerk telling her to proceed with processing licenses. Commercial applicants must be a Block Island resident for 12 months, although one license is awarded to a non-resident. Although they now run from January to January, Gempp wants to change them to run from April to April.

Reflecting on recent sewer spills, Gemp also brought up oil spills, saying the town had not provided a standard protocol for handling oil spills.

The state is creating a shellfish management plan. Bendokas  offered to look into it and report back. As liaison, she will also schedule work sessions with DEM and CRMC to address responsibilities of the commission and obtain some education on how to read water samples. The group passed a motion to buy an airline commuter booklet for visiting experts.

Meetings in 2013 will be held on the third Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m. from October through April, and 5:30 p.m. from May through September. When there are conflicts with holidays, the meeting will be held the fourth Tuesday of the month.

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