A $1 million project to upgrade and expand the Massachusetts State Lobster Hatchery in Oak Bluffs is on hold while the state addresses its fiscal crisis. Massachusetts state lobster hatchery director Mike Syslo he is not surprised, given the budget cutting going on in Boston.
Two months ago, the hatchery's saltwater pumps were shut off. Jim Rossignol, the assistant hatchery biologist, has moved back to the mainland.
Mr. Syslo said he hopes to continue doing lobster research at the facility, though he expects the work will be limited in scope. Greg Skomal, the state sport fishing biologist, will continue his programs. "Certainly Greg and I are both disappointed that funding didn't come through, but realistically, looking at the state of the current budget, it is not surprising. A lot of programs at the state level are being cut and there are layoffs," Mr. Syslo said.
A spokesman with the new executive office of environmental affairs said the cut came as former secretary Robert Durand left office. The new secretary is Ellen Roy Herzfelder, who just stepped into the office last week.
The state Division of Marine Fisheries is reeling from budget cuts. Mr. Syslo said his job description has changed. "I am now essentially handling all the shellfish and water quality issues for the Vineyard. This is a job formerly done by John Mendes and Greg Sawyer of the Pocasset office," he said.
Mr. Syslo said that the division is 50 per cent understaffed. "Most of it is tied to the early retirement program package," he said. As part of the early retirement program, the state can't fill positions being left by those who retire.
Mr. Syslo alone can't run the facility as a lobster hatchery. He can barely run the saltwater system. Pointing to the future, Mr. Syslo said he hopes to begin talks with the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole to see if there is a mutual project they can undertake at the hatchery.
The $1 million plan was to either renovate or rebuild the hatchery as a visitor center and research facility. Mr. Syslo and Mr. Skomal would have run their usual operation, but with an education component for elementary school children and provisions for undergraduate and graduate studies.
Mr. Syslo has worked for the state for 26 years. As the number of colleagues around him drops and the state Division of Marine Fisheries grows smaller, Mr. Syslo said: "This is just a reflection of what is going on in state government. It appears there are more severe budget cuts coming."