Finfish aquaculture ordinance drafted

GOULDSBORO — A far-reaching licensing ordinance, which would prohibit finfish farms whose annual landed catch exceeds so many pounds from operating in town, has been drafted and continues to be refined by the Planning Board. The proposal is being commented on by the public in writing or by citizens who regularly attend online or in-person the board’s regular meetings the first and third Tuesday of each month.

In its current draft form, the “Finfish Aquaculture Licensing Ordinance” applies to enterprises seeking to raise salmon, trout, sturgeon, yellowtail and other species of finfish. Under Maine law, “finfish” are defined as cold-blooded marine animals having permanent gills and fins. Finfish aquaculture licenses would be required of entities seeking to raise finfish in land-based tanks in town or operate from Gouldsboro to tend the fish in ocean pens and land their catch here. The non-transferable license would be valid for one year and renewable for one-year periods only.

Finfish aquaculture operations whose annual catches fall below a yet-to-be-determined volume threshold would not require the license but may face compliance with other municipal ordinances.

“I think it will do what we need it to do,” Planning Board Chairman Ray Jones said at the board’s July 19 meeting, referring to the work-in-progress finfish licensing ordinance that will be subject to a public hearing and town meeting vote once the ordinance is finalized. That timeframe is tied to the expiration of Gouldsboro’s current finfish aquaculture development moratorium Nov. 15.

At its April 28 meeting, the Gouldsboro Select Board voted 4-0 to extend another six months the freeze on finfish aquaculture development. The Select Board’s intent was to give the Planning Board more time to complete its review of Gouldsboro’s current ordinances and propose ways to gain greater oversight and authority over large-scale finfish aquaculture ventures seeking to set up shop in town and use public resources and services such as the community water supply, roads and solid waste disposal.

In the draft licensing ordinance, prospective finfish-farming developers would be required to submit a development plan. If approved, renewal of the applicant’s one-year license would hinge on submission and approval of an updated development plan. The plan must contain the finfish aquaculture operation’s projected weekly, monthly and annual harvest of fish raised in tanks onshore or in the ocean. License renewal would require updated estimates for the license holder’s catch and landings.

In the development plan, applicants must detail the existing or pending infrastructure — buildings, wharves, vehicles, equipment — to be used for the finfish-farming venture. They must identify potential suppliers and services needed for their operation. They must specify the number of full-time, part-time and seasonal employees and the nature of their jobs. They must also describe how their operation would benefit the local and regional economy and explain how any potential adverse impacts would be addressed.

In addition, finfish farms must describe the region’s existing commercial and recreational fisheries — including the different species of sea creatures harvested — and number of harvesters and vessels. The information source must be provided too.

Prospective finfish farmers who raise their fish at sea are required to provide extensive information about their ocean operation and characteristics including varying water depths, maximum windspeed, wave height and direction, maximum and minimum tides and seawater’s salinity and temperature range. The technology used to raise and harvest fish must be detailed. Whether farming on land in Gouldsboro or offshore, applicants must identify other potentially affected users of the resource. Users range widely from pleasure craft to commercial boats such as ferries to campgrounds, farmers and tourist activities, among others. Information sources must be cited.

Drafted by Rudman Winchell attorney Tim Pease, the licensing ordinance’s first draft continues to be tweaked and refined at the board’s monthly meetings. Public input is welcome. The board’s meeting can be attended via Zoom or in person at the town office. The draft ordinance is posted on the town’s website at

Letitia Baldwin

Arts Editor at The Ellsworth American
In addition to editing the Arts & Leisure section, Letitia edits special sections including Out & About, Overview, Health Quarterly, Your Maine Home, House & Garden and Get Ready for Winter. She comes from Chicago, Ill, but has deep family ties to the Cranberry Isles. [email protected]

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