To the Editor:
A Sept. 14 article in the Islander on the recent decision by the Department of Marine Resources to grant a 10-year aquaculture lease to Bar Harbor Oyster Company contains several significant misrepresentations of fact.
First, the article contains false assertions that concerns articulated by Friends of Thomas Bay (FOTB) were “minimized” by the Department. In fact, the Department carefully considered all concerns presented by FOTB that were under the DMR’s jurisdiction as authorized in law. The decision can be found online on the DMR website.
The article contained a statement from FOTB that the DMR “failed to act in the interest of public safety.” By law, the department must consider whether a lease will unreasonably interfere with waterborne navigation. The department carefully considered this issue, including the numbers and types of boats using the area, the site layout relative to navigation corridors and site marking according to U.S. Coast Guard requirements. Other safety issues are addressed by the appropriate agencies of jurisdiction, through a separate U.S. Army Corps permitting process.
The article also included a claim by FOTB that the Department did not “place the same operating restrictions on the Thomas Bay proposal that they applied to the Goose Cove permit.” Again, per law, the DMR Commissioner is authorized to establish conditions that govern the use of lease sites. These conditions must encourage compatible uses of the leased area, support flora and fauna, and preserve exclusive rights of the lessee. Because they are site-specific, these use conditions naturally will be different from one site to the next.
Finally, the article quotes FOTB claiming that the DMR is “structured both as agency to promote aquaculture and as the regulatory arm.” Once again, this is wrong. In fact, aquaculture is the only commercial fishing industry the department is statutorily prohibited from promoting.
Unfortunately the DMR was not provided an opportunity to respond directly to the assertions of FOTB. Had that been the case, this article could have provided a more balanced look at this issue.