Bangor Daily News Dec 30th, 2020
Protecting Maine’s coast
I am a young fisherman making my living for the last decade in Frenchman’s Bay. I recently attended a hearing by American Aquafarms, which is deceptive with its name for a starting point. The areas this Norwegian-backed company is proposing to turn into industrial aquaculture with two 50-plus acre leases for large fish pens, is heavily fished by lobstermen and has been for years. I am not a fan of foreign corporations making their money at the expense of Maine people.
I hope before anything moves forward, that the Department of Marine Resources denies this lease. We need to take a hard look at this company and all the large-scale aquaculture rules that have been put in place so that out-of-state and out-of-country interests don’t own one of Maine’s greatest treasurers: our coast.
Week Of December 9th, 2020, Ellsworth American and MD Islander
Questions on aquaculture lease
Frenchman Bay sits at the foot of Acadia National Park. It is a beautiful and special place in Maine. Now it also is a targeted site for fin-fish in-water aquaculture, and there are so many questions that revolve around this potential lease, which would be owned by a company run by Norwegians. American Aquaculture, funded through European investors, wants to raise salmon. Those 66 million fish would be raised in a plastic polymer bag sitting in the ocean just north of Bar Harbor. Raising may be too generous a word; rather, the fish will be swimming in circles in containers in the water. The cold, clean waters of Maine get pumped in and water gets pumped out as the fish swim in circles. And that methodology leads to so many questions about the potential damage to the environment. What will the water pumped back into the bay be like? Will it affect our local marine animals and plants? Will the state have effective regulations in place to do no harm to the environment? How will the container be kept clean? How many jobs for locals will it really create? I ask that question as much of it is said to be handled remotely. Why this area of Maine — an area that attracts millions of visitors a year? Why would the state grant a lease to someone who has spent time in prison regarding investors and money issues? Whose interests are really being served?
To: Friends of Frenchman Bay
From: Steve Weber (resident of Hancock)
Re: Norwegian aquaculture project.
Like you, I am troubled about the plans by “American” Aquafarms to build a huge fish farming Operation in Frenchman Bay.
I was initially concerned that FFB’s response not be motivated by simple NIMBYism. One of the ways I addressed that issue for myself was to seek the advice of a Norwegian friend who is a recently-retired veterinarian with extensive experience in marine veterinary science. I asked him whether he believes that FFB’s concerns have any merit.
After the usual pleasantries he responded:
“Concerning the gigantic plans on aquaculture in Frenchman’s Bay I would
simply say: it is madness.
So called closed systems i.e. canvas or plasic bags floating on sea sites were
operated on experimental basis in Norway during late nineteen eighties and
early nineties. Clean deep sea was pumped into the bags and waste water
released from the bags together with biological waste. The systems never
became profitable, and the systems I inspected eventually broke down or
collapsed. As a principle such systems are very interesting because bacterial,
viral infections and parasitic infestation can be reduced drastically. Such systems
can be improved in order to remove biological waste from the sites. However,
technically and practical it has turned out to be difficult and expensive.
Dear Steve, please send my regards to Friends of Frenchman’s Bay and encourage
them to do what they can to protect the environment. I wonder where and how
the founders will find/raise money for a project of such size. And what about
the State of Maine’s environmental Authorities ?
From your eternal friend…”
I have a lot to learn about this project, but I have already learned enough to appreciate the threat it poses to our environment, our Bay, to local fisherman, and to Acadia National Park.
I have asked my Norwegian friend for more information. I will share it as/when it becomes available.
Letter to the editor: Proposed ‘closed’ salmon pens pose threat to Frenchman Bay
I am writing to express opposition to the massive “closed” salmon pen operation proposed for Frenchman Bay.
American Aquafarms, based in Portland and organized recently by the Norwegian company Global AS, is proposing a gigantic salmon farm. Plans are to place 30 sea pens, each 150 feet wide, on two leases, totaling 100 acres in the center of the bay.
The American Aquafarms pens would support a projected annual production of 30,000 metric tons, or about 66 million pounds of fish.
I have been a summer resident of Mount Desert Island for 40 years. I spend much of my time there boating and picnicking on the surrounding waters and islands. Hop Island in Frenchman Bay is a favorite destination. One of the two American Aquafarms lease sites will be yards to the north of the Hop Island anchorage. This is an area daily plied by lobstermen, sailors and pleasure boaters.
The salmon pens on both lease sites will present an obstacle to such use. Their “closed” status will not prevent the release of dissolved fish and food waste into the surrounding waters, and farmed fish are likely to escape the pens.
Closed pens require significant electricity for the pumping of seawater. Power will be supplied by diesel generators for this operation, with attendant hazard.
There are no commercial-scale closed-pen systems operating in North America above pilot scale. In Norway the technology is still regarded as emergent. To pursue development of a massive system utilizing untried technology in the shadow of Acadia National Park is to invite disaster.
Francis M. Weld
Frenchman Bay wrong site for salmon farm
American Aquafarms, a multimillion-dollar company, has applied to lease over 100 acres of the ocean for salmon farming in lucrative Frenchman Bay fishing grounds.
The proposed dual leases are to cover 50 and 60 acres on the ocean surface, but there is no telling how much additional space the pens will cover with ropes and anchors on prime fishing bottom. The 100-plus-foot barge that tends the expansive and invasive pens would hinder commercial fishing and possibly cut off gear as it travels.
As a local fisherman, I’m concerned about the livelihood of myself as well as others. These are rich lobstering grounds and the site is one of the worst possible areas for an industrial aquaculture company to set up shop. American Aquafarms portrays themselves as bringing many benefits to the local economy; in reality, their massive presence will bring minimal positive impacts and could harm a community that relies on smaller fishermen and local product.
Concern about space is not all we are worried about; salmon pens are notorious for leaking fish excrement, which can have devastating effects on lobsters, as well as other seafood harvested for a living. The pens could have long-lasting environmental effects that go beyond just the area right next to the salmon pens. Who knows how far the tides will carry excrement? All in all, the Department of Marine Resources owes it to Maine fishermen to take a closer look at the potential disasters these leases and pens could bring.
Letter to the Editor
Don’t Mess with Nature’s Masterpiece (EA Feb 3rd, 2021)
Dear Editor: As a small business owner and a regular small boat sailor in Frenchman Bay, I am writing to say I’m worried about the recent proposal to put sea pens in Frenchman Bay. My business depends on the national park, with unspoiled scenery of the ocean next to mountain peaks, miles of trails, trees and wildlife attracting millions of people to our Island. It would be the biggest salmon farm in the state, with 100 acres yielding 66 million pounds per year. The cruise ship industry will also be out there anchored, emitting their cancerous fumes directly into the ocean instead of out their smokestacks, a short distance from this farm. Millions of gallons of scrubber wash water are flushed out of a pipe in the bottom of the ship containing a whole slurry of carcinogenic PAHs. These are two industries that should not be working side by side and the reality is neither should be operating in Frenchman Bay. This applicant is presenting a huge experimental at sea fin-fish operation at a time when land-based farms are being demanded around the world, like the Belfast Bay salmon operation just down the coast. It is a similar size as the Frenchman Bay pens, in terms of fish produced, but it’s proposed to be built on land with a sewage treatment system cleaning the water. The view of the Porcupines in Frenchman Bay in Acadia National Park is iconic. It would be spoiled by dead industrial symmetrical forms laid on top of the exquisite natural asymmetry. Let us keep the 5,000 jobs that Acadia National Park already supports and not spoil what already works. Big industry does not belong superimposed on a billion dollar natural masterpiece. Jim O’Connell Bar Harbor
MD Islander. Viewpoint:
Saving Frenchman Bay (and published in Ellsworth American)
February 18, 2021 on Commentary, Opinion By Steve Weber
Poverty sucks! It literally diminishes our ability to be ourselves, to do the right thing. It compromises opportunities for education, for a healthy diet, for medical care, for employment, even for longevity. This should come as no surprise to us Mainers. At $55,602, our beloved state of Maine ranks 36th in per capita income. One of the consequences of our relative poverty is that we are more easily taken advantage of, more easily exploited.Over 40 years ago, when I was an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Maine, a student of mine asked if I would join a master’s committee to examine his thesis in agricultural economics. (What harm could a philosopher do?) As is so often the case in life, my intent to be helpful to someone else turned into an educational opportunity for me.The student had written a full-of-insights thesis comparing Maine’s economy with that of a third-world nation. Ours is largely an exploitive economy; an economy that extracts raw resources. We provide very little, job-producing “value added.” Instead, that potential is shipped elsewhere while we are left with depleted forests and seas. The latest figures show that Maine ranks 49th among the states in value-added per worker, trailing the U.S. average by 24 percent.Why would we let this happen? Because we are poor and desperate for any jobs we can get. Poverty forces us to take the low-percentage “bird-in-hand” rather than bide our time for better opportunities. While wealthier states can afford to resist the temptation of cheap exploitive jobs, we are consistently suckered into them. Why despoil the forests of Massachusetts or Connecticut if we can trash Maine instead?It is not just that we allow ourselves to be exploited by other states; foreign countries are getting in on the trashing of Maine. A case in point: Norway ranks third internationally with a per capita income of $82,500, (48 percent higher than Maine’s). Its wealth lets it take better care of its citizens, (free medical care, free higher education, paid parental leave, etc.) which, in a “virtuous circle,” produces more wealth. Norway’s wealth also allows its citizens to take better care of their environment (and hence reap long-term benefits).This explains how it is that a Norwegian business seeks to export its pollution to Maine in the form of an ocean-based, industrial-scale fish farm at the heart of our Frenchman Bay. Norway regulates fish farms far more rigorously than we do. Perhaps that is because it values its beautiful coastline more than we value ours. But a more likely explanation is our poverty and the lack of regulation it spawns. This Norwegian company proposes to exploit our clean, clear waters and Maine’s more lenient regulations. In Norway, a fish farm is allowed to produce up to 5,000 pounds of fish per year; in Maine we have no such limitation. The 100-acre, floating factory, (complete with a network of floating docks and two large barges moored near its pens), that these Norwegian investors propose will produce up to 66,000,000 pounds of fish per year. Is that a lot? Yes. It would be the equivalent of 13,200 of the maximum-sized fish farms allowed by Norwegian regulations. No wonder these Norwegian investors want to take advantage of us.All those years ago, when my student argued for a “value-added” economy, I thought to myself: Maine does have a value-added economy. It is tourism, where most of the jobs stay in state, where people come here, rather than sucking resources out. Why do they come? Primarily to enjoy our clean, beautiful environment. Over two million people come to visit Acadia National Park, (on whose doorstep these Norwegian investors propose to anchor this atrocity), every year. This Norwegian project not only exploits our poverty, it damages our most valuable resources, both economically and aesthetically.Some pleasures are open to us all regardless of income: for example, enjoying the view of Frenchman Bay from the top of Cadillac Mountain. Close your eyes; imagine that view you know so well: beautiful islands floating in a pristine bay. Now imagine looking out from the top of Cadillac to see 100 acres of fish pens. To put that in perspective, Bald Porcupine Island, which sits so beautifully in Frenchman Bay, is 32 acres; Burnt Porcupine Island is 40 acres; Sheep Porcupine is 22. Add them up: together they are less than the 100 acres this Norwegian fish farm envisions claiming for itself.I began this essay with the cliché, “poverty sucks.” I did not, however, say what it sucks.Poverty sucks human and natural potential. It condemns us to be less than we can be; to compromise our future; to be timid in our defense of our self and of Maine; to grasp at the (always false) promises of “hundreds of new jobs” while abandoning the (actual) hundreds of lobstermen, clammers, wormers, scallopers, etc. who depend on Frenchman Bay for their subsistence – not to mention the thousands of hoteliers, restauranters and guides who depend on Acadia National Park. Now our poverty even threatens to suck away that beautiful view of an unsullied Frenchman Bay.Poverty wears various faces. There is a proud poverty that works hard and waits for a break. There is an ugly poverty that tries to “get mine” at the expense of others. But then there is a stupid poverty that sells itself and its future to the lowest bidder.We might be poor, but we do not have to be stupid.
Steve Weber is a retired university president living in Hancock.
Below is OpEd BDN 3/19/21 by Renata Moise of Hancock
Week of 3/34, Ellsworth American and MDIslander
A worrisome future
Dear Editor: On March 16, I watched American Aquafarms present to the Bar Harbor Town Council its proposal for salmon farming in Frenchman Bay. Rather than convincing me to support the project, the company’s explanations conjured up a worrisome future.It’s a lovely day for sailing, and I’m tacking south from Sorrento Harbor toward Bald Rock. The ledge usually stands out against Mount Desert Island, but today all I see are bright-colored buoys, a large boat, what looks like buildings floating on water and a field of structures sitting low on the bay. I brace the tiller and peer through binoculars. There’s a man, looks like he’s walking on water between the structures.I’d really like to reach Green Can No. 9, which marks the turning point for this annual summer pilgrimage. I’m close enough to catch the man’s attention but he’s ignoring me, so I sail alongside the farm, passing a half-dozen round structures without getting to the end. The wind carries the low hum of machinery. Buoys continue on and who knows how far I’d sail before reaching clear water.The afternoon is late and soon the sea breeze will die. I have an outboard but hate to use it, so reluctantly I point my bow homeward toward Dram Island. I know what this is; I just didn’t realize the extent of its impact or thought it would be a visual eyesore and not an actual obstruction. This is the closed-pen fish farm where the aquaculture company with an American name but Norwegian owner proposed to grow salmon. I like to eat salmon. But as far as I know Frenchman Bay has no native salmon population. It has plenty of other local fisheries and hopefully always will have. It’s also one of the most beautiful places on earth. Iconic Acadia National Park overlooking the bay is called “One of the nation’s most beloved parks” by National Geographic and is among the top 10 most visited national parks with over 3.5 million visits per year.And it has people like me, who love to sail. We are all stakeholders.Ann Hoffner Sorrento
Letter to the Editor Ellsworth American 3/31/21
Dear Editor: It was very disturbing to read the article on March 11 about the proposed salmon farm in Frenchman Bay. It would be good to be very wary about this proposal. We have seen similar things in the past: A company approaches a town, making promises of lots of “local” job opportunities, sustainability, the highest environmental standards and new, improved technologies, but over time the community sees a trail of broken promises, water pollution and environmental deterioration.Frenchman Bay, adjacent to Acadia National Park, is home to beautiful clean waters, a thriving tourist industry consisting of whale watching boats, shore and wildlife watching boats, cruise ships, private sailboats, motorboats and kayakers, a seasonal ferry, as well as several dozen small-scale lobster, mussel, oyster and seaweed operations owned by private local fishermen and women operators. All these have a vested interest in keeping these waters sustainable and clean.The salmon farm operation would transform this area into an industrial area with large commercial vessels, described as “barges and other craft,” transporting the collected fish wastes, consisting of feces and food, as well as harvested salmon from the pens back to the mainland for continuation of the industrial aspect by transforming to biogas and fertilizer.The current “closed pen” “emergent technology” proposal touts processes that would allegedly address major challenges such as waste control, fish escapes, reducing sea lice infestation and high mortality and “reducing” antibiotic use.But fish farms have been notorious in the past for serious ecological problems such as diseased fish, escaping fish mixing with the wild native salmon population, antibiotic use in fish for treating infections, high mortality and sea lice. It would be good to remember that the proposal also includes, while initially consisting of two pens, the potential increase in the number of pens to adding 10 pens per year over several years.The CEO of the currently Norwegian owned company has in the past been convicted of multiple counts of fraud, spending four years in prison and paying restitution of more than $1 million. He confirmed the charges and stated he “made some promises he could not keep.” So why should Mainers believe or trust him now to keep his promises about the technology and for holding the beautiful waters of Frenchman Bay and the livelihoods of Mainers in his hands.Marie Zwicker Sullivan
BDN 4/12/21 Tom Bailey
Fish farm questions
Renata Moise’s March 18 OpEd in the BDN, “Industrial fish farms pose dangers to Frenchman Bay” raises important questions about American Aquaculture’s lease application for closed pen salmon farming in Frenchman Bay. The project’s massive scale is underscored by the word “industrial” in the piece’s title, and the applicant’s own detailed description of the project size and complexity.
Along with questionable promises about “emergent technology” preserving the bay from environmental effects, American Aquafarm’s principle promotional argument is economic. Certainly Maine has economic issues, yet tax bases of communities around the bay, tiny Sorrento where I live, Winter Harbor, Lamoine, Hancock, Trenton, Bar Harbor, are greatly assisted by summer and tourist populations. Their per-capita assessed value and tax base is much higher than for communities not on the bay. (See 2021 Business Overview from Mount Desert Islander and Ellsworth American.)
This is in addition to traditional small scale marine industries whose existence contributes greatly to the bay’s economic value both on its own and through added tourism. A principle economic driver of the Frenchman Bay region is recreation and tourism, certainly more than the few hundred jobs American Aquaculture would provide. Major project profits would go to international investors not the local economy even with multiplier effects.
The recreational and tourist industries have great multipliers in the local skilled trades and service economies of Hancock County. The industrial scale and scope of this project are in direct conflict with the economy and environment of Frenchman Bay.
EA letter 4/21/20
A bad deal for Maine
Dear Editor: An industrial-scale salmon farm is proposed for Frenchman Bay with the promise of new jobs and environmental stewardship. While this sounds attractive, let’s consider who stands to benefit, and who stands to lose, because, while Frenchman Bay may be good for salmon (and salmon investors), the salmon may not be good for the bay, nor for the community as a whole. The proposed technology is risky. It’s never been used for a project even close to this size. Nevertheless, the firm plans to raise 66 million pounds of fish annually over a 20-year period. That’s a lot of fish. If you piled it into a 7.5-acre area the size of the island closest to the farm, the Hop — a much beloved, often-visited, pristine jewel — the pile would be 26 feet above the Hop’s highest point. Once processed, fish will need to be trucked from the Gouldsboro plant. Consider: The weight limit for a standard, 53-foot semi-trailer is 43,000 pounds. With a cab, these trailers are 74 feet long. To haul 66 million pounds of fish, the proposed annual production, you’d need 1,534 trucks stretching 21 miles bumper to bumper. Skretting, an international supplier of commercial aquaculture fish food, indicates that it takes 1 pound of fish pellets to raise 1 pound of fish. That translates to another line of 1,534 trucks 21 miles long.There will be two 250-foot sludge barges, one at each pen. The sludge will be regularly towed ashore, dried (imagine the odor!) and trucked out for some other use — maybe fertilizer, they say. We don’t know exactly what the sludge volume is yet, but probably a similar volume to the food, so maybe another 21-mile line of trucks.There will be large transport logistics for diesel fuel required to power high-volume pumps, controls, lighting and crew quarters. This demand is so large it will require one and possibly two so-called “minor new source” emission licenses from the DEP to meet EPA air pollution regulations. Basically, a license to pollute in Maine, not Wyoming. All profit will leave Maine, and the U.S. In other words, they pay some low-wage salaries and pillage our spectacular pristine bay for the benefit of foreign investors and leave all of us with a depleted, polluted environment. As the old song goes, they get the mine; we get the shaft. The firm is unlikely to pay taxes to Gouldsboro, or even the state; they’ve always said they’re expecting tax breaks under the Maine Pine Tree Zone program. And don’t expect compensation for new roads in Gouldsboro, or even the over site costs borne by the already understaffed Maine Department of Marine Resources. Importantly, everyone — the whole bay community — would be harmed if these permits are granted: residents, property owners, visitors, taxpayers, lobstermen, shellfish and kelp farmers, wormers, the hospitality industry, the tourist economy, the outdoor recreation industry, hardworking independent locals, summer people, people who depend on the bay for their livelihoods, people who fish, recreate or otherwise enjoy the bay — and who doesn’t? We all stand to lose. A lot. This project will adversely affect everyone except its foreign developers and investors. It does not add up. It is likely to cost many more jobs than it could possibly add. It’s bad deal for Maine and should not be approved.
Henry Sharpe Sorrento
EA letter to editor 4/21/21
Dear Editor: Questions of economic impact have been prevalent throughout this past year and it has made me think, what is the core of the Maine economy? The obvious answer is fishermen. The second, as shown by the former state motto “Vacationland,” is tourism. Despite individual fishermen’s opinions of tourists, lobstermen and “people from away” have a symbiotic relationship. Fishermen depend on the huge hauls and large sales of tourist season to earn enough to make it through heat season. Something that harms both the fishermen and tourists could be devastating to the local economy. It is for this reason I believe a salmon farm in Frenchman Bay would be devastating. Yes, it may bring short-term jobs, but we need to think long term.Fish farms are notorious for polluting our seas. Norway and other Scandinavian countries have strict ecological regulations, which is likely why the former Norwegian stockbroker jailed for investment fraud decided to come to Maine; our regulations are not as severe. Marine ecosystems are fragile, and disruption could be catastrophic for fishermen in the region. The proposed location of the thirty 150-foot pens would be right in the view of tourists ascending Cadillac Mountain. Seal watch boats would lose navigation space. Barges filled with fish would regularly round Schoodic Point, severely diminishing the natural beauty and appeal to visitors. If you care about the environment, you cannot support this. If you care about the economy, you cannot support this. If you care about our community heritage, you cannot support this.
Deiran Manning Gouldsboro
Ellsworth American 5/5/21
Not worth the cost
Dear Editor: As I learn more about the proposed salmon farm operation planned for Frenchman Bay and Prospect Harbor, I have many concerns.1) The scale of operation is out of character for the area, potentially interfering with other harbor uses including smaller aquaculture operations, fishing and lobstering and recreation.2) The fixed installations in Frenchman Bay will be unattractive located near Acadia National Park, with noise, fumes and lighting creating a nuisance to the bay and surrounding communities.3) Barge and ship traffic passing frequently between Prospect Harbor and Frenchman Bay will interfere with lobstering and adversely affect the Schoodic and Acadia experience for residents and visitors to the area.4) Water discharge in the quantities envisioned, even if “up to 90 percent clear,” could adversely affect the ecosystem in Frenchman Bay by altering water temperatures and adding nitrogen.5) There are unanswered questions regarding the use of large plastic holding pens, and how the plastic chemicals and potential breakdown into “microplastics” will affect the ecosystem of the bay.6) The proposed new salmon processing plant and associated structures and operations in Prospect Harbor raise potential issues with noise, light pollution and odor. Handling, storage and drying of sediment (fish droppings and food) could adversely affect the air quality of any location where that activity happens. An article in the Bangor Daily News describes the negative impact of a similar operation in Rockland [“The nose knows: How one Maine city gained new life by losing its stink, March 22, 2018]. All of this could negatively affect property values in the area.7) Our local roads are not able to handle current levels of heavy truck traffic; the planned transport of salmon and waste products will create an added burden on our local town’s infrastructure.This is not a “NIMBY” argument per se. Our “backyard” is owned and enjoyed by residents and taxpayers of Gouldsboro, Mount Desert Island and surrounding communities. Visitors to our area, who seek lodging, use our restaurants and experience Acadia National Park, are a key driver of the local economy. Over many years we have developed a workable balance among simultaneous uses of our area resources, whether commercial, recreational or ecological. The sheer scale of this proposed operation and its effect on other uses for the area, as well as its adverse environmental impact, should make it a non-starter. Although I support the goals of job creation, enlarging the local tax base and provision of high-quality food locally, the price of this project, as proposed, seems too high.
Mike Summerer Prospect Harbor
Ellsworth American 5/5/21
Don’t swallow the bait
Dear Editor: “Let’s get the record straight,” pleads Sebastian Belle, the executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association. But the argument he sets out is far from straightforward. Try as he might to frame the controversy as “wealthy landowners” versus “the working waterfront,” preventing the industrialization of Maine’s coastal communities is about a lot more than the people opposing it.As a fourth-generation native of Winter Harbor, and the son of a woman who spent 17 years cutting heads and tails by hand in a sardine cannery, I don’t know a single fisherman or resident of this area who thinks largescale fin fish farms like the one proposed by a Norwegian group calling itself “American Aquafarms” is a good idea. And what about tourism? People come to our area to enjoy unspoiled waters, not to look at fish farms the size of football stadiums.Though Mr. Belle leads readers to suppose otherwise, no one opposed to American Aquafarms’ industrial-size proposal stands against small-scale or land-based independent fish farms. The question is simple: how much is too much?Perhaps the most persuasive notion he baits us with is that a proposal of this size might bring with it the potential of economic development. That empty promise will be sure to perk people’s ears. I’m not sure, however, we have been honestly informed on just what that “development” will look like. The proposed pens will operate at a fish stocking density that is nearly 10 times the maximum by which Norwegian regulations measure water quality. Currently, Maine has no such regulations.Why would we surrender Frenchman Bay to a foreign entity using unproven technology so far beyond what even Norway (the world salmon farming leader) allows? The idea that American Aquafarms is “eco-friendly” enough to operate on such an unprecedented scale strains reason. Are we actually willing to sacrifice our bay to their experiment? Become a cash cow for international corporations with no real ties and no lasting benefit to our communities?Though American Aquafarms has made quite clear the tidy profit it stands to make off our waters, what it hasn’t made clear at all is what our local communities stand to get out of it. Not much, in this Mainer’s opinion.
Chandler Williams Winter Harbor
Ellsworth American OP ED 5/12/21
By Jerilyn Bowers
Sebastian Belle is quick to lay blame on a “few wealthy landowners” for “attacking the many who make their living on the water.” While that scenario makes for good theater, it is simply a clever attempt to distract you from the facts.Let’s do as Mr. Belle suggests and “get the record straight” by reviewing the facts: Over the last 15 years, rules and regulations governing Maine’s aquaculture industry have been radically changed by:• Increasing the maximum number of acres that can be leased by an entity from 250 acres to 1,000.• Increasing the length of a lease from 10 years to 20.• Allowing the transfer of a lease from one entity to another without a public hearing.• There is no limit on the total number of leases that can be granted in a specific bay and no mechanism in place to assess the cumulative impact of these leases on water quality, navigation, fishing or the marine ecosystem.• There has been an exponential increase in lease applications over the last decade. In 2010, DMR approved 34 aquaculture lease sites.In 2020, it approved 216.• Currently, the Department of Marine Resources approves 95 percent of all applications, despite remaining chronically underfunded and understaffed.The unintended consequence of relaxing these regulations is ironic since it jeopardizes the very industry Mr. Belle claims to protect. But as he rightly points out, most of Maine’s aquaculture entities could not even be described as small businesses — they are microscopic, owner-operator farms. And yet, by easing aquaculture regulations, Maine has opened its doors to large corporate entities, inviting them to set up shop in our coastal communities and drowning out the voice of Maine’s independent sea farmers. Have we learned nothing from the “big-box store” phenomenon? As these industrial shellfish, kelp and finfish operations become more prevalent, output is sure to saturate the market, making it increasingly difficult for local, small-scale, family-owned or independent producers to compete, or even deliver product into the market.Furthermore, Mr. Belle fails to mention the concentration of power at the Department of Marine Resources. The statute grants thecommissioner sole authority to determine whether an application presents “unreasonable interference” to navigation, fishing or other uses, ecologically significant flora and fauna and public use or enjoyment. Yet it stops short of defining what constitues “unreasonable interference,” leaving it instead for the commissioner to determine. At the very least, the term must be clearly defined and quantifiable.At a recent public hearing DMR testifi ed that there was no need to review its policies, thus dismissing the opportunity for a statewide conversation to determine whether these policies meet the needs of Maine’s coastal communities. Although the DMR, members of the Legislature and Mr. Belle may not agree, the time for that conversation is now.It is worth underscoring that the state of Maine is duty-bound to uphold and manage our waters and submerged lands in perpetuity for the public trust, not for the financial interests of privately held companies or their investors.Mr. Belle claims that Maine’s aquaculture leasing and environmental monitoring laws are the gold standard. But this could not be further from the truth. In fact, countries such as Norway, Scotland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have more stringent aquaculture regulations than the United States and Maine — including mandated regional marine sustainability plans. A fact that has not gone unnoticed by the corporate entities seeking to establish operations in our waters.Aquaculture has tremendous potential for Maine, but we need to get it right. We are currently watching the implications of Maine’s regulatory changes, endorsed by the Maine Aquaculture Association, play out in real time. The pending proposal from American Aquafarms for two 60-acre salmon aquaculture lease sites in Frenchman Bay is a clear example of why tighter regulations are needed — not to harm Maine’s independent aquaculture industry, but to protect it.
Jerilyn Bowers is a seventh-generation native of Mount Desert Island and member of Friends of Eastern Bay, a stakeholder group working to ensure the health, beauty and historic accessibility of Eastern Bay and the waters surrounding Mount Desert Island. She lives in Hancock.
5/11/21. Bangor Daily letter to Editor
Oppose industrial aquaculture
I lobster out of Lamoine and Frenchman Bay is one of my greatest fishing areas. I don’t understand how we have gotten to the point in Maine where we would want large scale industrial aquaculture in rich fishing grounds. But here we are entertaining 30 pens containing salmon to be raised in the ocean.
This is about the scale of aquaculture and the type of aquaculture that is being proposed. I am dead set against this project and any large-scale aquaculture projects in Maine. I have been talking with Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Foundation and understand they support small aquaculturists, lobstermen and all those with a vested interest in the coast. They are also working hard to protect the ocean from industrial-scale aquaculture.
Why does the state seem to be so eager to sell our oceans? That’s what the state would be doing by granting all these aquaculture leases giving exclusive rights to some at the expense of others.
EA letter to editor 5/20/21
“Public” meeting anything but
Last Thursday’s state-required “public informational meeting” by American Aquafarms was anything but public.We have all had to adjust to meeting by Zoom instead of in person, but in many ways that allows even more people to engage in public forums. Sadly, you never would have known that if you tried to participate in the meeting about AmericanAquafarms’ wastewater discharge permit applications for the pollutants that will flow from its massive industrial salmon farm in Frenchman Bay.Unlike any of the hundreds of Zoom meetings I’ve participated in over the last year or so, the gallery showing who else was at the meeting was turned off, the chat function was disabled and you couldn’t see the questions that people were waiting to ask. The company and its lawyers and consultants controlled every aspect of the meeting.When a questioner asked how many people were in the meeting, they said they didn’t know. If you have ever hosted a Zoom meeting, you know that’s simply not true. They knew; they just didn’t want us to know. And though we will never know who and how many people attended the meeting, it was clear that not a single person who was allowed to ask a question spoke favorably about the project.What also is abundantly clear is that American Aquafarms, which despite its name is really a Norwegian company funded entirely by Norwegian investors, does not believe in transparency and open dialogue. We are simply supposed to blindly accept empty reassurances about their motives, their faith in a technology that has never been used on a scale like this and their boilerplate modeling which lacks any real-world validation in waters like ours (but — surprise, surprise — shows that no harm will be done to the bay).Had I been called on to ask a question, mine would have been a very simple one: Why don’t you just pack up and leave now? You are not welcome here and people from all walks of life, from all around the bay are united as never before in making sure that this place we all cherish will not be destroyed by your greed and your destructive, ill-conceived proposal.
Ted O’Meara Hancock and Yarmouth
EA patlak letter to editor 6/10/21Salmon farm not worth the costDear Editor: Downeast Maine has always been a natural refuge from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other cities I have lived in and their nearby hotel-and-boardwalk-lined beaches. One of the last vestiges of a wild and unpolluted world left on the Eastern Seaboard, Frenchman and other nearby bays abutting Acadia National Park have remained clear and swimmable, still clothed in their unique awe-inspiring natural beauty replete with rocky shores fringed by forests and mountains, and magical islands that only surface with the tides. Like me, millions of people visit or summer in this vacationland each year. This brings Downeast Maine a sizable portion of its revenue, while restoring the spirits of those who visit its quiet and timeless environmental sanctuary.But that may soon change if the American Aquafarms proposal for a large-scale salmon farm is approved by state and federal officials. This operation is expected to discharge 4 billion of gallons of wastewater daily into the Frenchman Bay from each of its 15 pens — about 2,000 times the amount of effluent from Bar Harbor’s waste treatment plant. The 40 generators needed to run this operation are expected to be exceptionally noisy, along with the boats frequently ferrying the salmon to a processing plant in Prospect Harbor. In addition, lighting for 30 of the pens will mar the star-studded darkness for which nearby Acadia Park and its annual Night Sky Festival is known.I value economic development in Maine, but not if it will cost what makes the state valuable to most of the people who live or visit there — pristine waters supporting recreational boating and lobster, oyster and mussel fishing, a quiet peaceful environment restorative to the soul and a place full of unperturbed natural wonders. I urge all of us to do what we can to oppose this salmon fishing endeavor and the damage it will wreak in one of the most beautiful places in the world.Margie Patlak Corea and Philadelphia, Pa.
Ellsworth American letter to editor 5/27
A better option
The proposal by American Aquafarms to build salmon pens in Frenchman Bay [WaterfrontNews, May 18] threatens to mar one of the most beautiful marine settings in all of North America, where boaters and kayakers take inspiration from open waters surrounded by the bold headlands of Acadia National Park. Particularly dubious is the claim this project will bring a “next-generation, ecofriendly technology.” In fact, a far better salmon system is being operated by a company named AquaBounty, which currently farms the fish in circulating tanks on dry land, on Prince Edward Island and in Indiana. Each individual salmon reaches a market weight sooner, requires less feed and produces less waste.
Robert Paarlberg, Corea
letter to editor
Stone 6/17/21 .
Ellsworth American writer Letitia Baldwin covered the well-fed gathering with Norwaybased “American” Aquaculture in Gouldsboro. Oddly, no “farmed” salmon was offered. Baldwin observed and reported on an interaction I had with their sole American representative, Tom Brennan. Mr. Brennan was besieged with criticism and anger that day, so he was relieved that I asked him if he personally cared about the environment. He said yes and dashed away from a ring of critics to get me “his card.”Mr. Brennan voiced interest in opening communication with his Norwegian bosses regarding environmental sustainability. My proposal to them is that we all invest in habitat restoration in Maine waters. Frenchman Bay can be the first “test plot.”I propose that Norwegian “American” Aquafarms spend the $250 million required for a “semi-closed” industrial fish factory on instead beginning habitat restoration in Frenchman Bay. People used to fish for flounder right off local docks. Why not spend your millions on paying local scientists and divers to restore natural habitat for marine life? When edible stocks rebound, you would be first in line for harvest permits. No? That will not work for you? Theprofit will not come soon enough for “investors”? What are your priorities again? If your top priority is profit, why not build these fish factories in Norway? What? You are currently unable to do this project in Norway so you came here? It is not “sustainable” to burn fuel to get the fish from Norway to U.S. urban markets, so you want to run diesel generators and large ships in Frenchman Bay instead? If that is the case, maybe the state of Maine should deny the permit for an industrial fish factory in Frenchman Bay, or any other location in the state. Then we can get to work creating a viable, locally led and driven ocean habitat restoration plan that will benefit us all.That is my initial proposal. Clearly it needs refinement, and I hope that we will work together to create and implement a plan to rebuild our marine ecosystems, for the good of us all, not just to line the pockets of a multinational corporation.
Lynn Stone Sorrento
Editorial ran in MD Islander 6/16 and 6/17 2021 (Too much to lose) & EA, with different titles.
Editorials:The Next Big Thing
More than a few first-time visitors to Bar Harbor have nearly swerved off the road after glimpsing Frenchman Bay out the driver’s side window. A vast expanse of silver blue sea interrupted by the emerald-green mounds of the Porcupine Islands, it is a postcard come to life. Add a tall-masted schooner to the scene, and you will have our seasonal guests diving for their Nikons. For all its peacefulness, the bay is a humming ecological and economic engine. It is home to seals, seabirds, porpoises, fish and shellfish, including Maine’s iconic lobster. Fishing vessels, pleasure craft, tour boats and cruise ships ply the waters. Small-scale aquaculturists raise kelp, scallops and mussels. It is against this backdrop that the patriotically named but Norwegianbacked American Aquafarms proposes raising 30,000 tons of salmon in pens at two 60-acre sites located near Bald Rock and Long Porcupine Island. If successful, Hancock County could become the farm-raised salmon capital of the U.S., especially considering Whole Oceans’ plans for a landbased salmon operation in Bucksport. The Maine Fair Trade plant in Gouldsboro would find new life as a hatchery and salmon processing plant, bringing new jobs to a town that could use them.The developers say their system addresses the pitfalls of other pen operations by controlling and treating waste and preventing escapes. And, according to the lease application, American Aquafarms intends to use antibiotics only as a fallback plan, instead relying on the natural setting and vaccinations to protect the fish fromdisease. Some of the details in the proposal seem downright space-age, including the illustration of a stateof- the-art control room and a netcleaning robot. The robot, described as “novel,” may be an appropriate metaphor for the whole project: cool if it works, but there could be a lot of bugs to work out.The company says it intends to put about $300 million into the salmon farm. It will likely attract investors looking for the next big thing, but what happens if those investors cut bait and move on to the next big thing? Nothing comparable has been done on the Maine coast. It will take an enormous commitment of resources and leadership for the company to deliver on its promises — if it can.The state must look to its natural resources for new innovation, but that cannot come at the cost of proven assets. “Not in my backyard” is a tired argument, but there are very real concerns about the environment, the loss of prime fishing grounds and increased boat traffic.Members of the aquaculture industry testified against recent legislation aimed at revisiting the Department of Marine Resources’ lease process. They emphasized that the current process is thorough and sufficient to protect Maine’s waters and the many interests there. In our experience it has been. Let’s hope that continues to be the case. Because when it comes to Frenchman Bay, there is just too much to lose.Copyright (c)2021 Ellsworth American, Edition 6/17/2021
Ellsworth American Letter to the Editor 6/24/21
Murphy Treasured Resource in Danger
Dear Editor: We are opposed to the proposed construction in Frenchman Bay of two salmon farms by American Aquafarms and understand that on June 9, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection accepted American Aquafarms’ wastewater discharge application as complete.This company would profit from exploiting a treasured natural resource that should be protected for future generations.American Aquafarms’ potential 20-year lease on local waters would negatively affect the livelihoods of individuals who currently fish the areas of the proposed farms and interrupt the visual expanse of open ocean water treasured by those who live, work and visit the greater Bar Harbor area. In addition, it would cause pollution (light, noise and fuel) at unacceptable levels.This internationally owned company must be stopped from entering local waters and disrupting a fragile aquaculture system. If allowed to go forward, we fear it may invite other similar projects to area waters.Suzanne and Ted Murphy
Ellsworth American Letter to Editor
Wrong project, wrong place
Dear Editor: I am writing to urge public opposition to the application by American Aquafarms that is currently under review. This project will bring industrial- scale salmon pens to Frenchman Bay. This bay has been used and enjoyed by people for generations for fishing, pleasure boating, tourists and people who simply like to experience the exceptional Maine vitality of a healthy open bay surrounded by mountains, communities and a national park.In my opinion, a single entity should not have the right to impose a project that will forever affect the experiences of all the surrounding communities until and unless they have received overwhelming approval from all the people this project will affect. No one can own Frenchman Bay and everyone owns it. It is an issue of the commons vs. a private industrial enterprise. When a private enterprise seeks to impose its development on a territory that affects everyone, it needs the consent of all.It is not about the concept of aquaculture. It is about the scale of this single proposal. I realize there is no clear definition of “how much is too much.” But I firmly believe that if you ask everyone who has an interest in Frenchman Bay, you would get near unanimous agreement that the scale of this project is way too large for our bay.If you want to help stop this project, I urge you to involve your friends and neighbors who would have an interest in saving Frenchman Bay. There is abundant information available online. Here are a few: https://friendsoff renchmanbay.org and https://www. facebook.com/salmonproposal.
Dick Fisher Prospect Harbor
letter to editor 7/1/21
The future of Frenchman Bay
Dear Editor: It is obvious that the water quality of Frenchman Bay is of critical importance to all living species in and around its boundaries — marine life, terrestrial wildlife, residents, visitors and businesses alike.To that end, the state of Maine has established standards and limits that describe when water quality has been compromised. All aquaculture lease applications must describe in detail if discharges are expected to impact water quality along certain dimensions established by the state.Not all leases are created equal relative to their impact on water quality. In particular, the American Aquafarms application makes it clear that water quality will suffer during its operation. They do note, however, that in their opinion, the degradation of quality is not sufficient to exceed the maximum levels established by the state.Given that all the discharge data in this application are estimated, not actual, and estimated in an ideal environment, not by actual field studies on an operation of such massive scale, how certain can the state be that quality will not be degraded more than American Aquafarms estimates? It is possible that the actual degradation from this applicant could even exceed the maximum limits established by the state. The risk of error could be significant, resulting in irreversible harm.Given that the state believes the Frenchman Bay can absorb only so much degradation without serious systemic consequences, is the massive American Aquafarms proposal the best way to use so much of that remaining margin? Or could that remaining margin better support many less harmful applications?Further, should Mainers be given preference when limited Maine resources are at stake? Should tax credits be reserved for those projects that will not cause the level of harm that the American Aquafarms is proposing? And finally, will the few jobs created by the American Aquafarms proposal really be a fair exchange for permanently degraded water quality?
Roy Gruver, Prospect Harbor
By Nicola Knipe and Karl Kusserow
As Maine taxpayers for more than 30 years, we believe in protecting the state’s pristine waters and parklands and supporting industries that bring good jobs to Mainers. The proposed American Aquafarms project in Frenchman Bay will do neither. American Aquafarms will industrialize and may ruin one of the most beautiful recreation spots on the Eastern Seaboard and thereby cost far more jobs in the local tourism and hospitality industries – 5,000 jobs and over $500 million in 2019 – than they may create. Tourism revenue enriches Maine. By contrast, American Aquafarms will enrich no one but themselves – and the lawyers and businesspeople currently on their payroll, working to get permits so the project can roll ahead.
Let’s get our facts straight:
Despite its name and red, white and blue eagle logo, American Aquafarms is not American. It is Norwegian – as are the four other major aquaculture projects proposed in coastal Maine. Why? Because Maine does not yet have the stringent environmental regulations that Norway does to protect water quality, biosecurity and the livelihoods of smaller fishing industry operators. These foreign investors propose to make a fast profit here, farming fish at a scale that won’t pass muster in their own country.
Furthermore, American Aquafarms claims to be sustainable, but has not, in fact, carried out an environmental impact assessment for what will be the largest ocean fish farm in North America. They admit the technology has never been used at this scale. How will four billion gallons of discharge a day affect Frenchman Bay? How will 10 diesel generators at ocean level, each big enough to power a city hospital, spewing emissions directly above the water surface, affect the quality of air and water? Nobody knows. We will be the guinea pigs for a project whose leaders live 3,000 miles away. If it destroys a marine ecosystem already seriously threatened by climate change, they do not have to live with the consequences. We do.
Finally, American Aquafarms claims that by raising salmon in Maine they are reducing the carbon footprint of transporting the fish from Norway to the U.S. What they are actually doing is outsourcing their carbon footprint – to Maine. The 66 million pounds of salmon they intend to produce will not be eaten in Maine but transported by refrigerated tractor trailers to Boston. An estimated one truck to or from Gouldsboro every 16 minutes will be needed to supply, transport and run their vast operation. Mainers will suffer the brunt of the pollution, the increased land and water traffic, and the loss of one of the last great places as yet untouched by massive industrialization.
Maine has incredible potential for aquaculture. But let’s do it right! There are tested, sustainable, bio-secure and renewably powered options that could bring jobs up and down the coast. Let’s trust Yankee common sense and ingenuity, not an untested proposal that could destroy one of the region’s most important and glorious assets.
For more information, this is a great resource: frenchmanbayunited.org.
Nicola Knipe and Karl Kusserow reside in Princeton, N.J.
To the Editor:
The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce represents nearly 400 businesses in Bar Harbor and its surrounding areas. The majority of our member businesses are in the hospitality industry and rely on visitors to our area to support their livelihoods. For this reason, and more, the Chamber opposes the draft aquaculture lease applications submitted by American Aquafarms Inc.It is unusual for a Chamber of Commerce to oppose a project that promises to bring jobs and business activity to its region, but the proposed industrial salmon farms threaten the brand we have cultivated to attract and retain visitors. Those visitors have been coming to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park for more than 100 years to enjoy the pristine views of Frenchman Bay from the rugged coastline of Mount Desert Island. American Aquafarms’ proposed aquaculture leases would detract from the scenic beauty of our area and imperil the existing tourism economy that provides jobs to more than 4,300 people and generates thousands of tax dollars for the state of Maine.The industrial scope of the proposed salmon farms is far too large for our harbor. Visually, the oversized salmon farms would blight the views from Acadia National Park’s peaks, motor roads and carriage roads, as well as from the decks of boats carrying sightseers.The Chamber also stands with our local fishermen and women who are a vital component of our business community. They have expressed concerns about the salmon farms cluttering the bay and impacting its resources. The potential for water pollution from discharge systems, feed, and waste could jeopardize Frenchman Bay and its wildlife. The ship traffic servicing the salmon farms may also result in additional loss of fishing gear.Our communities, both here in Bar Harbor and in our fellow towns around Frenchman Bay, have voiced their concerns about this project as well. Industrial-sized salmon farms are not appropriate for our region.Maine’s nickname “Vacationland” makes clear that tourism is of the utmost importance to our way of life. And while I can appreciate leaders in Augusta looking for ways to diversify our economy with aquaculture projects, this proposal from American Aquafarms simply does not fit in one of Vacationland’s most visited places.
Alf Anderson Executive Director Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce