To the Editor:
A farmer who raises a few chickens to feed his family is not comparable to Tyson Farms, which slaughters about 40 million birds each day. And the Bar Harbor Oyster Company is not the same thing as the floating fish factory a Norwegian investment group is proposing for Frenchman Bay. Joanna Fogg’s ode to aquafarming in the Sept. 1 Islander blurred this crucial distinction.
Fogg’s company grows about 200,000 oysters per year – roughly 25,000 pounds. Aquafarms wants to raise 66,000,000 pounds of salmon per year – the biggest such facility in the world. Small operations like Fogg’s can be managed to reduce environmental threats; industrial-scale salmon factories are ecological disasters.
American Aquafarms would flush their pens with about four billion gallons of seawater per day. That’s 2,000 times the volume of effluent Bar Harbor can legally discharge, and it’s triple the combined output of New York City’s 14 sewage plants. Aquafarms’ discharge would be loaded with pollutants, including the nitrogen compounds on which algae thrive. We already have algal blooms in our Bay. Nitrogen levels are rising and indicator species like eelgrass are declining. Adding tons of waste from a salmon factory would further degrade water quality and could even destroy our existing fishing and tourist industries. American Aquafarms claims they want to feed the world, but they really just want to reap higher profits by passing their environmental costs on to Maine taxpayers.
Maine’s aquaculture regulations were enacted long before multinational corporations seized control of the salmon farming business. Today they are inadequate to protect the public from the industry’s collateral damage. We must take three steps to save our bay and protect our economy. First, we must pause applications for new licenses. Second, we must revamp Maine’s aquaculture policy to balance growth and conservation. And third, we must ensure that state regulators have both the will and the resources needed to enforce tougher controls.
Fogg is right – we should encourage small local operations and help them to flourish. Let’s also make sure we prevent floating fish factories from choking our coastal waters with toxic slime.