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December 13, 2022 FBU Member Update

Washington State bans net-pen salmon farming

On November 18, Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz issued an executive order that ends commercial net-pen farming of fin fish in state waters. The order followed her termination of Cooke Aquaculture’s remaining fish farming leases in Puget Sound.

Washington now joins the other West Coast states of California, Oregon and Alaska in banning net-pen fish farming. The Canadian government also plans to phase out salmon net-pens in neighboring British Columbia by 2025.

According to The Seattle Times, Cooke purchased all of Washington’s net-pen facilities in 2016 and got into trouble with state authorities a year later when a pen at its Cypress Island site broke apart, releasing hundreds of thousands of non-native Atlantic Salmon into local waters. Washington officials said that the break was likely attributed to inadequate maintenance and cleaning of the pens containing the farmed salmon.

Cooke also is the only company currently raising salmon in net pens along the coast of Maine, with sites from Eastport to Black Island, a few miles south of Bass Harbor, where the company experienced a mass die-off of 116,000 salmon in 2021 that went unreported for nearly two weeks.

While the Washington ban is good news for all of us who care about the health of our oceans and native species, we have real concerns that this will put additional development pressure on the cold, clean waters of the Maine coast.

In a news release issued by FBU last week, Board President Henry Sharpe said: “we are deeply concerned that not only will American Aquafarms return with a new proposal, as they have promised, but others will now see Maine as an even more inviting place to build large ocean-based fish farms.”

He went on to say: “As the door is closed on net-pen salmon farming elsewhere, it would be a tragedy if American Aquafarms returns and other environmentally destructive, commercial-scale fish farms try to come to Maine because we are seen as a place with lax regulations and oversight and low-cost permits. Let’s learn from the experience of others and make sure we are doing everything we can to protect one of Maine’s most extraordinary assets – our coastal waters.”

We will be learning more about the Washingtons decision and its implications for Maine in the coming days and hope to have Commissioner Franz join us for a program next year. In the meantime our news release was picked up by national publications, including E & E News and Seafood Source.

New FBU board member

Thanks to everyone who attended our first annual meeting on November 9th. We were pleased to give members an update on current activities and future plans and to elect a new member to our board, Michael Hyde of Trenton.

Mike, who has been working with our communications team for the past year, brings a wealth of experience in communications, development and government relations to the board. He retired from The Jackson Laboratory in 2017 as Vice President for External Affairs and Strategic Partnerships and previously spent many years in development at several well-known colleges and universities. Mike currently serves as a senior affiliate consultant for a higher education consulting group.

Welcome, Mike.

Gouldsboro ordinance update

With the moratorium on large-scale fish farms recently extended for another 180 days, the Gouldsboro Planning Board continues to work on a new ordinance. A draft is expected sometime this spring so that a vote to adopt the ordinance can take place at the town meeting in June. Keeping the issue alive

Despite their initial rejection, American Aquafarms promises to return, and it’s up to all of us to remind our friends and neighbors that the threat remains. Please continue to contact your elected officials, share information on social media and send letters to your local newspapers.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent letter to The Ellsworth American that appeared online under the headline “Worth defending”:

“If American Aquafarms has the nerve to try to ram this awful development down our throats again with a new proposal – as it appears they will – we are ready to take them on again and stop this project once and for all. This is our home. It’s where we live, raise our families and make a living. It is a place worth defending.”

We need more letters like this. There is some good information on sharing your opinion on the Take Action! section our website.

Year-end re-cap

As we wrap up another successful year advocating for Frenchman Bay and our coastal waters, we want to thank you for your continued support and participation in our efforts. We also want to take a minute to re-cap some of the major accomplishments of the past year.

  • In April, the Maine Department of Marine Resources refused to accept American Aquafarms’ lease applications after the company repeatedly failed to comply with Maine requirements for egg sources. The DMR action then caused the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to end further consideration of the company’s waste discharge actions. American Aquafarms has vowed to return with new applications, but they will have to go the back of the line and start all over again. While the DMR decision was based on a technicality, it was still a victory, and we should feel good about the powerful opposition we brought to bear on the process.

  • Frenchman Bay United was honored by two prominent Maine conservation groups, Friends of Acadia and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, for our work in opposing the American Aquafarms development.

  • Work continues on the groundbreaking waste discharge modeling that we commissioned from Dr. Chris Kincaid of the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography. Dr. Kincaid has had ongoing discussions with the Maine DEP, and we believe that his modeling has given Maine officials a compelling new perspective on ocean discharges.

  • Work also continues on the economic impact studies undertaken by TBD Economics on our behalf. The studies are taking an in-depth look at how a project like American Aquafarms affects the fishing and tourism economies around Frenchman Bay.

  • We held information sessions for our members and the public throughout the spring and will start a new series early next year.

  • Even though the American Aquafarms project is on pause for now, we continue to warn the public through our media relations efforts that they plan to return, and that the Maine coast is still seriously threatened by industrial-scale aquaculture. In addition to the many serious concerns around ocean-based finfish aquaculture in general, the American Aquafarms’ technology adds special new concerns because it demands the transport, storage, and burning of huge amounts of diesel fuel to power generators used to pump water and run lights. Consider this: our calculations show that eight ounces of diesel would be burned for every pound of fish produced. Not only does this run totally counter to Maine’s ambitious climate change goals, it presents unprecedented risk to the marine environment that is not present with other aquaculture technologies.

  • We have maintained strong relationships and regular contact with members of the broader coalition that we brought together to fight American Aquafarms and are working with them to strengthen Maine laws and regulations.

  • As the year draws to an end and a new session of the Maine Legislature is ready to begin, we are expecting several groups to introduce legislation related to finfish farming. We are following these developments closely and will lend our support and guidance to those efforts that address our desire to protect Frenchman Bay and Maine’s coastal waters generally.

Our work to protect Frenchman Bay and Maine’s coastal water from industrial development is made possible through your support. We hope that you will continue to give generously as we gear up for what surely will be another eventful and challenging year.

You can make a secure, tax-deductible donation online here or send a check to Frenchman Bay United, PO Box 37, Salisbury Cove, ME, 04672

Thank you and best wishes for the Holiday Season.

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