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.