Credit: George Danby / BDN

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Dana Connors is the president and CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

Sustainability is a word we hear a lot in Maine’s business community. Whether in regards to economic, environmental or corporate practices, our companies are striving to meet the needs of the present, while charting their long-term growth. Ultimately, those that prioritize and meet this responsibility will be best positioned to grow our economy and move our State forward.

In light of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, this work takes on a new urgency. The headline alone stating that “Climate change widespread, rapid, and intensifying” should be enough to make us all step up to the plate and reimagine our future.

Combating climate change will require citizens, government and business to work together. Maine businesses play a vital role in creating innovative solutions to protect our planet. A challenge of this magnitude requires collaboration, not confrontation, to advance the best ideas and policies. Together, we can forge solutions that improve our environment and grow our economy — leaving the world better for generations to come.

Maine has a long history that proves economic growth and environmental progress are not mutually exclusive goals. For decades, our working waterfronts have provided the connection between land and sea that is critical to sustaining a diverse and thriving coastal economy. However, in order to not just maintain, but to sustain this industry, we need to welcome innovation.

The United States currently imports about 90 percent of the fish eaten in the country. We are exporting our dollars, while increasing the direct negative environmental impact that comes with transportation necessary to bring fish here. The salmon on your plate was most likely shipped across thousands of miles from Chile or Norway. But we have a tremendous opportunity to produce food both safely and sustainably, while helping to fight climate change and creating good jobs for Maine people.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, marine aquaculture is vital for supporting our nation’s seafood production, year-round jobs, rebuilding protected species and habitats and enhancing coastal resilience. It is exactly why Maine has identified it as an excellent opportunity to accompany traditional fisheries, and to utilize and improve existing natural resources and strengthen Maine-made food systems.

Gov. Janet Mills’ ambitious climate plan, Maine Won’t Wait, encourages backing and increased growth of the sector, noting the opportunity to mitigate ocean acidification and improve water quality. Aquaculture also aligns with the Mills administration’s 10-year economic development strategy, specifically the ability to grow salmon to meet the global demand for safe, climate-responsible food sources.

To site a new aquaculture project, there’s a detailed, multi-step process based on science and balanced with public input. From a pre-meeting to a public hearing to an appeal, it is a painstaking exercise designed to ensure this industry doesn’t harm our waters and their natural habitat. You can see these regulations for yourself on the 15-step flowchart on the Maine Department of Marine Resources website.

A new proposed aquaculture facility from American Aquafarms will need to clear these hurdles. However, some seem driven to spread misinformation and stop this important process entirely. By participating in a transparent and rigorous review, we can see for ourselves if their project deserves our support. We have the opportunity to ask questions and voice our opinions. And American Aquafarms will have to demonstrate they can meet the high standards we’ve set and earn their place on our coast. If they do, we should welcome them.

Maine’s rich history, vibrant communities, and unparalleled work ethic make our state a fabulous place to work and live. To keep it that way, we must foster a business and regulatory climate that is practical, predictable and durable — and maybe, most important of all, sustainable.

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