Frenchman Bay ecosystem

To the Editor:

Large cruise ships in Frenchman Bay cause two negative effects: one ecological, the other aesthetic. Both are being ignored by the committees considering the possible construction of a megapier to host mega-size ships.

The town of Bar Harbor has hired an excellent consultant who is helping to coordinate and facilitate the four major committees considering the type of pier to be built, but it has not hired an ecological consultant. Why not? Such a person is needed, not to do hands-on labwork, but rather to call up the studies of Frenchman Bay that already have been done and then to summarize the relevant results and make them understandable to the mostly nonscientific town councilors and committee members to help them make wise decisions, not only for economics, but especially for the ecological effects that cruise ship activities already have had and will have on the bay.

No consideration at all is being given to the economic effects that Bar Harbor Town Council decisions may have on the many businesses located along the north and east shores of the bay that all depend on a healthy ecosystem in the bay. That policy of blissful ignorance is a continuance of current practice.

For example, no ecological impact statement has been prepared to assess the effects that steadily increasing numbers of huge, medium and small cruise ships anchored in the bay already have had, nor would have if tethered there via a pier.

A relatively recent study of the ecology of the bay and its many marine-dependent businesses, called “COA Frenchman Bay Atlas 2012,” is available online. The study highlights the large area of scallop habitat near the ferry terminal site.

The very large propellers (two per ship) on the very large Oasis-class cruise ships stir up massive amounts of silt. That silt then is ingested by all filter-feeding shellfish (clams, mussels and scallops) directly below the ships and then throughout the bay, and it coats adult, juvenile and larval lobsters.

Disturbance of silt also will stimulate the growth of cyanobacteria (“blue-green algae”), leading to “algal blooms” that will be fed upon by the dinoflagellate organisms that produce the toxins associated with “red tide.”

Red tide events are a great, direct economic threat to the companies that run aquaculture farms in Frenchman Bay.

A mega cruise ship is like a large municipal landfill. Both are huge and visually prominent. Both have smoke stacks that release toxic gases. Both are often brightly illuminated, 24-7. Both are financial generators for a limited number of people. Both contain the output of thousands of people.

So, what working-class family would use its one week of annual vacation to load the dog and the kids into the car to drive from NYC or Boston to come all the way to Bar Harbor to see a floating landfill when they already can see cruise ships and landfills where they live?

Instead, the family should focus on hiking and biking in Acadia National Park, the jewel of Maine.

Gary W. Conrad

Bar Harbor


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