April 05, 2020
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Concerned citizens announce statewide effort to protect Maine’s traditional fishing heritage

Community Author: Jill C. Valley-Orlando
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PORTLAND — 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 percent 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 of 100 acres.
  • 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.

“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 percent of the time despite public outcry, testimony from lobstermen, fishermen and those who live near and recreate on the water,” said spokesperson Crystal Canney.

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.

“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,” said Canney.

Find us on social media at Facebook.com/protectmainesfishingheritage, @ProtectMaine on Instagram and @maine_protect on Twitter.

For more information, contact  Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage, Crystal Canney, spokesperson, at  protectmaine@gmail.com or 207 615 5968.