(Portland, Maine) — A group of citizens who have been working to ensure continued access to Maine’s oceans has formed a new coalition Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage. The group has been active in advocating for lobstermen who are losing acres of fishing grounds to aquaculture leases in some parts of the state. The organization also supports Maine residents who are concerned about losing access to the ocean for recreational usage.
Currently, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) grants 99% of all licenses and leases for aquaculture in Maine waters. Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage will be proposing legislation to address the following:
- Anyone including residents, out of state residents, businesses and corporations can own 1000 acres of the ocean in 100-acre increments.
- Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage believes DMR needs a better siting process that looks for the least impactful site location.
- Aquaculture leases can be transferred without the benefit of a public hearing to individuals, businesses or out of state corporations.
- Aquaculture leases can be held for 20 years for the sole use of one person, business or corporation.
Spokesperson Crystal Canney said, “We need to protect the lobstering industry. This has been an incredibly difficult summer and you can add aquaculture as the next threat to an industry already under fire. Licenses and leases are approved almost 100% of the time despite public outcry, testimony from lobstermen, fishermen and those who live near and recreate on the water. This
group is asking for the help of Maine legislators to take a harder look at what has happened in the last few years around extensive aquaculture growth, increased lease size, longer terms and the ability to transfer leases without a public hearing. We want to co-exist not compete with the aquaculture industry but we will never believe trading lobster jobs for aquaculture jobs is good for the state of Maine. The economics just don’t bear it out. Maine’s landings value for lobster are close to 500 million and the total for aquaculture including farm-raised salmon is 71 million. That is not economic development. We need sensible legislation so both can co-exist and that is not what we have in Maine right now.”
Earlier this year, concerned citizens around the state expressed a desire to take action regarding lease size among other rules changes with a citizen’s petition. The Department of Marine Resources denied the citizens petition.
Across the country, in-water aquaculture is a serious topic of conversation and leaders are asking the same questions – how do we do it right to protect the ocean. In North Carolina recently the legislature approved a test pilot that included experimental sites of 50 acres in designated zones in order to avoid some of the issues we are seeing in Maine. Again, in Maine, you can lease up to 1,000 acres of the ocean per person, business or corporation.
Canney said, “The stories we hear from lobstermen and people who are impacted by leases are the same. They attend hearings but regardless of input the majority of leases are granted anyway. While DMR may be following the laws on the books it’s clear there needs to be a change. We are prepared to help move that forward.”
Find us on social media:
Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage
Crystal Canney, Spokesperson
207 615 5968
July 21, 2019 |Stonington, ME – Lobstermen from Machias to Boothbay Harbor rallied on the Stonington Commercial Fish Pier to draw greater attention to the issues facing the survival of their industry and the livelihoods of coastal Maine communities.
Lobsterman Julie Eaton led off the day saying, “NOAA knows that not one Right Whale has been proven to have been entangled in Maine rope in many years and the new proposed regulations would only cause extreme danger to our lobstermen. We are the first line of protection to the marine mammals of all types and had much rather work on sensible solutions that work for everyone. Between the proposed new regulations for the Right Whale, a bait shortage and the threat of aquacultures leases that could allow a single person sole use of 1000 acres of our fishing grounds, these are dark times for Maine’s lobstermen. We are hoping that our state and federal politicians will hear our plea and stand by us and our coastal communities.”
Eaton added if lobstermen do not get support and the industry suffers the impact will be much larger, “Here’s the deal, if we can’t make a living then we can’t buy vehicles, we don’t fix our homes which impacts contractors, we don’t spend as much at the grocery store. When a large community such as this with more than 4800 lobster license holders is impacted the ripple effect will be felt far and wide.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is likely to get an earful from lobstermen at upcoming hearings in August to discuss the Right Whale issue. Many testifying at the hearings have demonstrated concerns that more was not done sooner to protect the lobster industry.
Over the last few months, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has held hearings up and down the coast and, last week, Governor Janet Mills sent an open letter to members of the lobster industry conveying her solidarity with them.
Governor Janet Mills attended the rally saying, “Maine’s lobster industry is a critical pillar of our state’s economy, with thousands of commercial harvesters and dealers supporting their families, breathing life into their communities, providing jobs, and helping sustain a treasured way of life,” said Governor Mills. “As Governor, I will always defend our lobster industry. which is why I have directed Commissioner Keliher to evaluate a risk reduction target for Maine that is commensurate to any actual risk posed by the lobster industry. We are committed to pursuing solutions based on sound science that protect both lobstermen and Right Whales.”
Senator Susan Collins, Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden attended as well.
“Maine’s iconic lobster fishery supports the livelihoods of 4,800 licensed lobstermen and women and more than 10,000 additional Mainers who work within the industry,” said Senator Collins. “The challenges facing our lobster industry have always transcended politics. I am working with my colleagues in the Maine Delegation, lobstermen and women, state officials, and all stakeholders to find a solution that ensures a strong future for the lobster industry and reflects reality in the Gulf of Maine.”
Representative Chellie Pingree said, “The Right Whale population needs our help. I am concerned however that NOAA’s one-size-fits-all risk reduction tool may not be the best fit for Maine’s lobster industry, and could potentially endanger the lives and livelihoods of Maine lobstermen,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01). “Before we ask them to make such significant and costly changes, we need more information about the risk factors to Right Whales to ensure that reducing lines will actually keep them from harm. Protecting our oceans and the sea life that inhabit them is one of my biggest priorities in Congress, but this regulation, and all solutions need to be reassessed to ensure the safety of those putting food on our tables.”
Representative Jared Golden said, “I was proud to stand alongside Maine lobstermen in Stonington today. The new NOAA regulations could put many Maine lobstermen out of business without a guarantee that any right whales would be saved. It is important to Maine communities and the lobster industry that we continue to fight against unfair rules and inaccurate information. We’re calling for solutions based on sound science and good data that protect lobstermen and whales.”
Earlier this month, Congressman Golden, Senator Collins, Senator King, and Congresswoman Pingree wrote to the president asking him to intervene in the implementation of new regulations on Maine lobstermen.
To read the letter click here.