A Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) statement on the massive of die-off of nearly 116,000 salmon at pen sites off Black Island in mid-August raises more questions than it answers, according to groups concerned about industrial-scale aquaculture in Maine waters. The die-offs were discovered at the Cooke aquaculture pen sites on August 16 and weren’t reported to the DEP for almost two weeks. In a news release today, the DEP said that it had found no permit violations associated with death of the fish.
Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Executive Director Crystal Canney said, “So the obvious question is – what killed the fish? You won’t find answers in the statement issued today, and we are still waiting to hear from the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), the primary regulating agency on net pen salmon. DMR was very quick to say that it was a dissolved oxygen issue, but the DEP has already ruled that out in its statement today.”
Canney said that the lack of oversight by state government is appalling, especially given the very real environmental and public health concerns posed by the die-off. She said that her organization has already filed a Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) for notes and correspondence that went into the DEP arriving at its conclusions in this matter.
Cooke Aquaculture has been working under an old permit that was due for renewal in 2019. Under the current permit, testing for oxygen does not happen in the pens where the fish lived but rather 35 meters away from the site. Canney added, “That’s like having a problem with your woodstove filling your house with smoke, but then measuring air quality out in your yard. Maine’s inability to provide adequate regulation around net pen salmon couldn’t be clearer.”
“So, what caused the die-offs and are other species in any danger? If the pens were cleaned before the state arrived to look at them, where did all the fouling go, to the bottom of the ocean and what impact is that having on the fishing and lobster industry?” Canney added.
“Foreign investors are currently seeking permission from the DEP and other agencies to put one of the world’s largest salmon farms in the waters off Acadia National Park,” said Ted O’Meara of Frenchman Bay United, a coalition that is actively working to stop the American Aquafarms proposal. “Massive die-offs are only one of many serious environmental threats, but the way this incident has been handled so far raises huge questions about the state’s ability to provide proper oversight of an in-water salmon farm that is far bigger than anything Maine has seen before. It looks like we are allowing large companies to call the shots while the public is being kept in the dark about what is happening in our own waters.”
Contact: Crystal Canney
Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Foundation
Frenchman Bay United