Mike Bishop motors his harvesting raft around nets of submerged harvested seaweed while moving to a new location in Quahog Bay off Harpswell in late September. Bishop works for Source Maine, a Brunswick company that makes micronutrient supplements using the seaweed. A recent court ruling that prohibits harvesting in the intertidal zone has made it harder for seaweed harvesters to do business. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald

Maine: Rockweed industry adrift after ruling allows landowners to restrict access

The court decision this spring overturned decades of precedent that harvesters relied on to cut the wild seaweed.

Maine’s wild seaweed harvesters say their industry has been upended by a court ruling that put swaths of productive seaweed beds out of their reach.

The Maine Law Court this spring ruled that rockweed, which is processed for food, supplements and pharmaceuticals, is the property of shoreland owners, and harvesters need permission to collect it.

Harvesters and scientists argue the ruling is based on flawed science and contradicts decades of precedent that rockweed was a public resource, like other fisheries.

The court decision was “basically a death sentence for a lot of companies,” said Bonnie Tobey, operations manager at Source Inc., a Brunswick seaweed company. “We are struggling – it doesn’t take a genius to figure out this is impacting us all financially.”

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