Voters in the town of Gouldsboro, the state of Maine on the US Atlantic coast have placed a moratorium on large-scale fish farms until at least the next boreal spring. The vote took place during a special town meeting.
The moratorium ordinance, retroactive to Sept. 16, freezes for six months the review and issuance of municipal permits for any finfish aquaculture-related development that comprises 10 acres or more in local coastal waters, according to a news release.
When the moratorium expires, the Gouldsboro Board of Selectmen would hold a public hearing on whether to renew the freeze for an additional 180 days. To be granted the extension, the Planning Board would have to show that “reasonable progress” had been made to address issues posed by companies interested in starting a finfish aquaculture business within the town.
The vote came as Norway-based American Aquafarms has permit applications underway to lease two potential salmon production sites, every 60 acres, between Bar Harbor and Schoodic Peninsula, which includes Gouldsboro. The company proposes to install 30 “closed pens” plus two operations barges, to eventually produce 66 million pounds, of salmon annually.
According to the release, the special town meeting, moderated by Rudman Winchell attorney Tim Pease, drew around 250 voters, only four of whom raised their hands in opposition to the ordinance.
The moratorium is seen as a mechanism that gives the Planning Board time to shore up the town’s ordinances to address projects as large as the proposed American Aquafarms project.
“I have been opposed to this project since the first time I heard about it,” lobster fisherman Jerry Potter said in the release. “We have a healthy economy in the bay and this will destroy that economy, all to line the pockets of overseas investors.”
“We need economic development that helps the area, not something that will ruin an irreplaceable ecosystem in Frenchman Bay,” said Jacqueline Weaver, a founding member of Friends of Schoodic Peninsula and a board member of Frenchman Bay United, both of which oppose the proposal.
In a recent interview with Mainebiz, American Aquafarms new CEO, Keith Decker, said that, as the wild fisheries decline in the Gulf of Maine, the project would create jobs for future generations and help reduce imports from abroad, would eliminate discharge and other problems seen at older open-pen sites, and would be designed to be as unobtrusive as possible.