Why some Maine coastal communities are up in arms about aquaculture

From oyster farms to cultivated seaweed and farm-raised salmon, aquaculture is often described as essential to the economic future of Maine’s fisheries in the face of a changing ecosystem. Warming waters from climate change are pushing lobster farther Down East and have shut down the shrimp fishery, and threats such as ocean acidification and invasive green crabs are harming Maine’s natural fisheries.

But opposition to several proposed projects suggests the hardest part of getting into aquaculture might be getting past the neighbors. All along the coast, neighbors argue that pending aquaculture ventures will create too much noise, use too much energy, attract too many birds and obstruct their opportunities for boating or lobstering. One questioned whether an oyster farm would make it hard for deer to swim from one point of land to another.

In Belfast, abutters to the land where Nordic Aquafarms hopes to put in a giant land-based farm to raise salmon have filed a lawsuit against the city, which they say hastily and secretly approved a zoning change the company needed to move forward.

In Brunswick, opponents of a proposed 40-acre oyster farm have hired not just attorneys, but a public relations expert, Crystal Canney, in the hopes of persuading the Department of Marine Resources not to approve the lease.

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