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Maine bills proposing guardrails on aquaculture encounter rough waters

March 30, 2023  By  Nestor Arellano

Two proposed legislation that sought to implement enhanced laws regulating aquaculture operations and development in Maine are facing stiff opposition from the state’s Marine Resources Committee.

One of the bills that the committee recommended on March 23 an “Ought Not To Pass” for measures to insure that recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) operations would not adversely impact the environment or commercial fishing.

The committee also made the same recommendation for a bill that sought to turn over local control to coastal waters to regional councils.


Currently, companies with interest in establishing RAS operations in Maine include, Nordic Aquafarms, which is encountering some legal disputes in Belfast; Whole Oceans in Bucksport; Kingfish Maine in Jonesport; and American Aquafarms in Frenchman Bay.

An Act to Protect Maine Fisheries from the Effects of Industrial Recirculating Aquaculture Operations, was introduced by Sen. Anne Beebe-Center (D-Knox). The bill directs the Department of Marine Resources to ensure that new industrial RAS operations “do not contribute to the degradation of water quality or air quality or increase the State’s overall carbon emissions and that aquaculture feed sources do not include certain wild marine organisms, pollutants and contaminants.”

The bill also said that Department of Marine Resources must ensure “that industrial recirculating aquaculture operations do not adversely impact native lobster, shellfish, seaweed or finfish operations.”

An Act to Establish Coastal Waters and Submerged Lands Regional Planning Commissions, was introduced by Rep. Lynne Williams (D-Bar Harbor). The bill requires the “establishment of coastal waters and submerged lands regional planning commissions to develop long-term water use plans and planning ordinances for the areas surrounding the large bays and other coastal regions.”

The bill calls for the creation of regional commissions “according to the economic, geographic, ecological and social characteristics of the large bays and other coastal regions, taking into account the interests relevant to the bay and the region, the uses and future needs of the coastal waters and submerged lands in the bay and the region and organizations already participating in management of the resources of the bay and the region.”

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