American Aquafarms Rendering

Park superintendent outlines salmon farm concerns

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — In a five-page letter to the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider has detailed serious concerns about the potential impact on the park of a proposed salmon farm in Frenchman Bay.

“The scale of the development – the equivalent of 16 football fields – is unprecedented in the United States and incongruous with the existing nature and setting of Frenchman Bay and its surrounding lands,” he said in the July 6 letter to Marcy Nelson, acting director of the DMR’s aquaculture division.

American Aquafarms Inc., a Norwegian company, is proposing to develop the salmon farm and to operate a salmon hatchery and processing plant in Gouldsboro. Schneider said the salmon farm would be “just 2,000 feet from Acadia National Park at its closest point.”

“While many other commercial fishing and aquaculture activities take place within Frenchman Bay and exist in harmony with Acadia…this development is fundamentally different.

“Visitors come from around the world to hike, bike, paddle and enjoy the magnificent scenery in and around Acadia,” Schneider wrote. “As the primary tourist destination in Maine, Acadia plays a key role in the state’s tourism economy. The park is not just a magnet for tourism but provides quality of life benefits to year-round residents.”

He noted that the National Park Service has a mandate to engage in “cooperative conservation beyond park boundaries…to preserve national parks unimpaired for future generations.” And he said the park service is assessing the potential impact of the proposed salmon farm on Acadia’s “scenic and historic resources, night sky, natural soundscape, water quality, air quality and flora/fauna.”

As for the potential impact on “scenic resources,” Schneider said in his letter to the DMR that the proposed aquaculture development would be visible from numerous locations in the park.

“Has a comprehensive viewshed analysis been completed to assess the potential impacts on…views of Frenchman Bay?” he asked. “Does this analysis include vessels that will be serving the pens, as well as the infrastructure necessary for operation, such as the barges, generators and oxygen storage tanks?”

Schneider said Acadia officials are concerned that lighting associated with the proposed salmon farm would weaken the park’s claim to having among the darkest night skies in the Northeast. And he expressed concern that the salmon farm’s generators and mechanical systems would impact the park’s “natural soundscapes.”

“Will cannons or other sound devices be used to deter gulls and other birds from flocking over the pens?” he asked.

Schneider expressed serious concerns about the impact of the proposed aquaculture operation on water and air quality, as well as on native animal and plant life.

“With extreme climate events becoming more common and intense, there is the potential for the [salmon] pens to release pathogens or non-native species into Frenchman Bay and the coastal ecosystem of Acadia,” he wrote.

“Intensive shipping activity associated with this project…also adds to the likelihood of a new invasive species introduction. Submerged infrastructure will aggregate fish and increase the likelihood for invasive species colonization.”

Schneider said in his letter to the DMR that the park service is requesting “a thorough review of potential cumulative impacts from the water-based development, shipping activities and land-based fish processing and distribution.”

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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