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.