January 27, 2020
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Maine woman wants to start a seaweed farm that would employ women in recovery

Courtesy of Salt Sisters
Courtesy of Salt Sisters
Colleen Francke has plans for a seaweed farm off Falmouth that would have a special mission: to employ women who, like her, are recovering from substance use issues.

A Falmouth woman is proposing a 200-acre seaweed farm off Falmouth at a time when aquaculture’s growth in Maine is drawing controversy. But this sea-farmer believes she can win support from the seafaring community.

Colleen Francke is a sternman on her husband’s lobster trawler, the Linda Kate, which often moors on the landward side of Clapboard Island, less than two miles off Falmouth’s Town Landing mooring field. Now she is asking the state for 20-year leases on two hundred-acre ocean plots to the island’s northeast.

Francke said that because the season for the sugar kelp she plans to farm runs from November through May, most potential conflicts with other boaters and fishermen should be averted.

“This is where I lobster in the summertime,” she said. “This is where I gain my income, too. So I’m not going to shoot myself in the foot.”

Francke added that her business has a special mission: to employ women who, like her, are recovering from substance use issues.

“It’s getting these women out of their element, trying something new,” she said. “It’s the concept that if you plant something and it grows, then you have the opportunity to grow alongside what you’re actually planting.”

Summit Point Seafood Co. would own the lease, and the company is called “Salt Sisters.” It would be one of the largest aquaculture operations in Maine.

The two lease applications are the first to be published under a new state process that aims to allow earlier public scrutiny of proposed aquaculture operations. A “public scoping” session and subsequent public hearings have yet to be scheduled.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.


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