BREAKING NEWS: Gouldsboro voters put aquafarm plan on ice for 6 months
GOULDSBORO, Nov. 16, 2021 - In what is widely seen as a vote against a proposed industrial salmon farm in Frenchman Bay, voters at a Special Town Meeting yesterday decided overwhelmingly to approve a moratorium against all large-scale fish farms for at least six months, reported Jacqueline Weaver of Friends of Schoodic Peninsula.
While there was not an exact count, Town Manager Eve Wilkinson said there were 205 people in the room and only 3 voted against the moratorium. It was so overwhelming with only 3 opposed that an official count was not taken.
The moratorium gives the Planning Board time to shore up its ordinances to address projects as large as the 120-acre salmon farm proposed by American Aquafarms, which is largely made up of Norwegian investors.
Veteran lobster fisherman Jerry Potter said that although this vote does not kill the project, it does send a strong message to the company that the majority of residents do not back the salmon farm project, Weaver reported. American Aquafarms has said it needs the support of the community.
“I have been opposed to this project since the first time I heard about it,” said Potter, 75, who has been fishing in Frenchman Bay since he was a teenager. “We have a healthy economy in the bay and this will destroy that economy, all in order to line the pockets of overseas investors.” While many other commercial fishing and aquaculture activities take place within Frenchman Bay, and exist in harmony with Acadia National Park, this development is totally different. The scale, which is the equivalent of 16 football fields, is unprecedented in Maine.
Weaver, a founding member of Friends of Schoodic Peninsula and a board member of Frenchman Bay United, both of which oppose the AA proposal, said this project is wildly inappropriate development for the area and for Frenchman Bay.
“We didn’t ask for this, we don’t need it, and we don’t want it,” said Weaver. “The only people that will benefit from this are the investors. Existing businesses have great difficulty filling jobs. We need economic development that helps the area, not something that will ruin an irreplaceable ecosystem in Frenchman Bay.”
Opposition to the project has been growing locally since last spring when residents of the Schoodic Peninsula started becoming aware of the proposal and its magnitude.
While American Aquafarms is holding out the promise of new jobs, Acadia National Park, which would overlook the 30 pens, said the salmon farm would jeopardize 5,400 existing jobs that depend on the pristine nature of the national park.
The voting took place at the Gouldsboro Rec Center on Pond Road.
The moratorium ordinance addresses large scale aquaculture development and is retroactive to Sept. 16. The moratorium would freeze 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.
When the six month moratorium expires, the Gouldsboro Board of Selectmen would hold a public hearing on renewing the freeze for an additional 180 days.
In order 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.