Longtime hatchery changes hands
By Christine Legere
Richard Kraus, one of three longtime owners of Aquacultural Research Corp. in Dennis, shows the workings of the shellfish hatchery in April in anticipation of a sale that was finalized Monday. MERRILY CASSIDY/ CAPE COD TIMES FILE
DENNIS — A shellfish hatchery that has operated at the mouth of Chase Garden Creek for more than 50 years changed ownership Monday, and by Tuesday work was already well underway to empty old equipment out of the ramshackle hatchery building so it can be replaced in coming months with a new facility.
Aquacultural Research Corp. is now owned by a group of investors who, in many cases, have a stake in the fishing industry. The list includes the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting (known as Wellfleet SPAT) and a consortium of Cape Cod families interested in protecting an industry mainstay.
The $3 million the group put together— $1.5 million in investment funds and $1.5 million in loans— will be used to build and equip the new hatchery and get the business up and running.
The three longtime owners— Richard Kraus, Susan Machie and Gail Hart— will maintain an 8 percent share in the new operation and the investor group will hold the remaining 92 percent.
The old hatchery’s final season, during which 100 million shellfish seeds were sold, ended just a week ago.
“Demolition should begin in early September,” ARC’s Chief Executive Officer Rob Doane said. “The new hatchery will be finished by the end of February, just in time for the 2016 season.”
The company will be run by Doane and a board of directors made up of business investors and representatives from the fishermen's alliance and Wellfleet SPAT. Kraus, who will guide the new venture with his years of experience, also will serve on that board, Doane said.
The fishermen’s alliance was instrumental in assembling the investment team. “When I first heard the current owners were looking to retire or shut down, I started talking to the shellfishermen around the Cape to see what the significance of that was to them,” alliance CEO John Pappalardo said. “I didn’t know over 1,000 people on the Cape relied on the hatchery.”