To the Editor:
“Let’s get the record straight,” pleads Sebastian Belle (Islander, April 29), the executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Association. But the argument he sets out is far from straightforward.
Try as he might to frame the controversy as “wealthy landowners” versus “the working waterfront,” preventing the industrialization of Maine’s coastal communities is about a lot more than the people opposing it.
As a fourth-generation native of Winter Harbor, and the son of a woman who spent 17 years cutting heads and tails by hand in a sardine cannery, I don’t know a single fisherman or resident of this area who thinks large-scale fin fish farms like the one proposed by a Norwegian group calling itself “American Aquafarms” is a good idea. And what about tourism? People come to our area to enjoy unspoiled waters, not to look at fish farms the size of football stadiums.
Though Mr. Belle leads readers to suppose otherwise, no one opposed to American Aquafarms industrial-size proposal stands against small-scale or land-based independent fish farms. The question is simple: How much is too much?
Perhaps the most persuasive notion he baits us with is that a proposal of this size might bring with it the potential of economic development. That empty promise will be sure to perk peoples’ ears. I’m not sure, however, we have been honestly informed on just what that “development” will look like.
The proposed pens will operate at a fish stocking density that is nearly 10 times the maximum by which Norwegian regulations measure water quality. Currently, Maine has no such regulations. Why would we surrender Frenchman Bay to a foreign entity using unproven technology so far beyond what even Norway (the world salmon farming leader!) allows? The idea that American Aquafarms is “eco-friendly” enough to operate on such an unprecedented scale strains reason. Are we actually willing to sacrifice our bay to their experiment? Become a cash cow for international corporations with no real ties and no lasting benefit to our communities?
Though American Aquafarms has made quite clear the tidy profit they stand to make off our waters, what they HAVEN’T made clear at all is what our local communities stand to get out of it. Not much, in this Mainer’s opinion.