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Blue Hill Bay Rockweed Discussion
February 6, 2015 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Dr. Robin Hadlock Seeley, a 7th generation Mainer, marine ecologist based at Cornell University, resident of Pembroke, Maine, and co-founder of the Rockweed Coalition, has been documenting and reviewing the impacts of rockweed harvests in Maine and elsewhere. Dr. Seeley will be hosted by the Friends of Blue Hill Bay on Friday, February 6 at the Blue Hill Library (Howard Room, upstairs), at 8 pm following the Downeast Audubon showing of a movie about the Snowy Owl. Come for the movie at 7 pm, stay for Dr. Seeley’s update and a discussion about areas in Blue Hill Bay that need to be closed to rockweed harvest because of their ecological value or value as fisheries habitat.
Free, all are welcome.
BACKGROUND: Recently the Maine Department of Marine Resources developed a harvest management plan as this commercial rockweed cutting greatly expands along the Maine coast. Rockweed harvesting is being treated as a fishery, with targets based on biomass removal and regrowth rate (from 1 to 6 inches a year, depending on location) rather than as habitat, for ecological sustainability. Commercial rockweed harvests have potential to impact many animals, including threatened migratory shorebirds; seabirds; seal pups; 35 species of fish, including juvenile cod, pollock and other groundfish; and invertebrates that are part of the food chain. Rockweed is removed from rocky coasts and used as a raw resource in many products, including pet food, fertilizer for golf courses, and neutraceuticals. The only source of rockweed is wild rockweed. Ownership of the rockweed on any given shore is a matter of legal debate and that aspect is ignored in DMR deliberations.
The final step in DMR’s management plan is setting aside areas that will be “no cut” areas. A working group has been appointed to work out the list of “no cut” areas, and they are under pressure from the rockweed industry to keep the list as short as possible. Currently many shores and islands protected by parks, refuges, and land trusts are not proposed as “no cut” areas, and thus these conservation areas will be open to rockweed harvest unless the conservation community takes action. Will the DMR Commissioner follow recommendations of the working group? No one knows, but it is important that voices for conservation be heard now before the recommendations are finalized in the next two months.