A wake-up call for Maine’s seafood industry

Dear Editor:

The article (Ellsworth American, Nov. 26) about the Surry lobsterman and the sea squirts (tunicates) found attached to his lobster traps was interesting and should be a wake-up call to the dangers of invasive species to Maine’s seafood industry. The species Corella eumyota, the smooth variety, sometimes referred to as sea grapes (look similar to green grapes), is not new to this area. It’s been in the Bagaduce River and Taunton Bay for at least 10 or 12 years and the Blue Hill Salt Pond for four or five years that I am aware of.

Sea squirts are a common problem for the oyster industry. They can clog up bottom cages and upwellers to the point that you could lose your entire crop if actions were not taken to eradicate them. A simple salt brine dip and an hour or two of air drying usually solves the problem. The far greater problem, as the article mentioned, is if they grow dense enough to smother colonies of bottom-dwelling shellfish, whether wild or cultured. Several years ago, one of our divers found an area of bottom in Taunton Bay, approximately a half-acre in size, that was covered with sea squirts. Fortunately, it was not near any of our bottom-planted oysters and we haven’t seen any of this density since.

The Bagaduce River, Taunton Bay and the Blue Hill Salt Pond all have warm water due mostly to the tidal restrictions at the mouths of each of these estuaries. Most of us in the industry believed the sea squirts were restricted to these areas because of the warmer water. Apparently, that is not the case.

Michael Briggs

Blue Hill

President, Taunton Bay Oyster Co. Inc.



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