Re: “Solution to rockweed harvesting should be rooted in privacy rights” (Nov. 16):

Rockweed is a sustainable, valuable, underdeveloped industry for Maine’s coastal communities, and it belongs in the public trust, along with the other living things in the sea.

This commentary starts with the false assumption that rockweed is a resource under threat by harvest pressure. It is not. Rockweed harvesting is a long-standing and well-studied global industry; science and industry history both support setting harvest levels far above current statewide landings, and harvested biomass represents a fraction of what is lost annually to natural conditions of wave action and ice shear. Read the state rockweed management plan for a more complete picture.

Perpetuating this assumption is the Rockweed Coalition, referenced in the column, which ignores extensive scientific study and employ misleading and loaded terminology in their campaign along our coast. They refer to “old-growth rockweed forests” through a vague comparison of habitats, but fail to identify the overwhelming differences between terrestrial forest stands and the intertidal microalgael environment that are essential to understanding harvest impact.

The Rockweed Coalition is demanding the industry prove that there is no ecological harm caused by harvesting, demanding the proof of a negative. That isn’t how science works. What has been shown is that the harvest does not have long-term effects on seaweed biomass or biodiversity.

Economically, rockweed harvesting in the only open license fishery in Maine that is scalable above a foraging industry. Urchins, elvers and scallops are closed. Expect a 20-plus-year tenure as a sternman in order to get a lobster license, and clamming access is controlled by towns.

Rockweed harvesting is a sustainable opportunity for those who seek a modest living from the ocean, and science should dictate the statewide harvest, not misinformed wealthy landowners. Rockweed harvesting isn’t a problem, and private ownership is no solution.


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