On Thursday, a legislative committee in Maine, U.S., gave the green light to a proposal to stop large-scale aquaculture projects. The proposal seeks to exclude such projects from the purview of state regulators.
Public Maine reported, explaining that the bill, introduced by state Sen. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, and later amended by the marine resources committee, would prohibit the state from granting leases for fish aquaculture farms if the proposed stocking density exceeds 30kg/m³.
According to Maine Public's report, Grohoski associated the bill with American Aquafarms' salmon farm project in Frenchman Bay. That proposal provoked serious opposition from lobstermen, Acadia National Park, and conservationists. The Maine Department of Marine Resources ultimately rejected American Aquafarms' application for incompleteness last year, and the processing facility purchased by the company is in the auction.
"But what is to stop the next massive-scale project from being proposed?" Grohoski said to Maine Public. "The time to act is now, while there are no applications under consideration." Now they are trying to prevent this debate from happening going forward.
Patrick Keliher, the commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, emphasized that they would have never approved such projects. As the Maine Public reported, "even if the company had met the application requirements, because the proposed site was highly utilized by lobstermen."
However, he pointed out that considering the American Aquafarms proposal took valuable time away from his department.
"In this case, our aquaculture division has been under tremendous strain. And the strain that an application like American Aquafarms put us under, took valid applications that should have been going through the process and were backburnered. [Meanwhile] the staff had to focus on this application that at the end of the day wouldn't have been approved anyway," Keliher said to Maine Public.
Representatives of Cooke Aquaculture, which has approximately two dozen farms in Maine, expressed opposition to the measure, according to Public Maine. Cooke Aquaculture explained that setting a stocking density limit could prohibit its ability to adopt new and evolving technology.
The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) serves a crucial role in the conservation and development of marine and estuarine resources. Thus, their focus on scientific research, the promotion of fishing industries in Maine, and advisory support for coastal activities, the DMR ensures laws and regulations.