Oct 5, 2012

Penobscot Bay gets 'Friended'

A new environmental organization has risen to steward Penobscot Bay's water quality, fish and shellfish habitat and scenic resources. It held its first press conference October 4th 2012 on the Sears Island causeway. See TV coverage.

Why a new NGO? Aren't there enough already? Not..exactly.

For too long, Maine's biggest bay has suffered from a scattershot approach to protection of its natural resources from oil spills and other pollution sources and from inappropriate development.

Maine's newest marine conservation group, the Friends of Penobscot Bay, which held a media rollout of the organization on Thursday October 4, 2012 on the Sears Island causeway will bring expertise from around the bay and among the bay's fishery and tourism sectors to bear on these many local concerns.

Communities and citizens in the trenches defending their piece of Penobscot Bay
 from sprawl or pollution rarely have an opportunity to assist the bay's other defenders up and down her coast. Yet the problems raised by developers and waste dischargers around the bay are often very similar, often involving the same officials of the same agencies. The companies are represented by the same environmental consultants, law firms and public relations teams

The Friends of Penobscot Bay has come into being to respond to the need to coordinate such information. With a baywide organization run by fishermen and others whose living is dependent on their Bay having clean water and healthy marine and shoreline habitats, abundant prey and forage species, and high quality natural scenic beauty, the Friends are able to respond to any kind of issue, anywhere around the bay.

The vast majority of the bay's hatchling  fish and shellfish do not survive their first year before falling to predation, starvation or poor water quality. 

Unique among environmental groups the makeup of the Friends of Penobscot Bay's Board of Directors reflects its small business/ natural resource protection orientation: Sheila Dassatt of the Downeast Lobstermen's Association; Thomas Atherton of Bucksport, a commercial wormdigger and biologist; scalloper Michael Keating of Owls Head, workboat operator and diver Robert Izerbyt of Rockport, oyster farmer Jesse Stuart of Penobscot, recreational clammer and coastal camp operator Astrig Tanguay of Searsport, environmentalist Harlan McLaughlin, also of Searsport, and conservationist Ron Huber of Rockland
The Friends of Penobscot Bay  will inventory the knowledge and talents of the bay's many natural resource-reliant commercial businesses, from fishermen to wormdiggers to coastal campground operators and apply it  to each bay impacting development proposal, be it a summer home builder seeking to riprap an eroding shoreline or an energy giant.

Combining the local close-in citizens are critical for protection and improvement of our natural environment, bit by irreplaceable bit. However, the Friends of Penobscot Bay seek to boost the likelihood of bay-friendly outcomes in those efforts, by bringing  the combined  talents, knowledge, skills and assets of  the bay's fishermen, eco-defenders, and other bay users and enjoyers to bear on each local issue.

The bay is suffering from a thousand local cuts, inflicted over the last three hundred years. The combined effect is such that even small new development projects and waste sites can combine with dreadful effect on our bay's entire ecology.

An unhappy result of those 'thousand cuts' is that Penobscot Bay's finfish, mussels, scallops, seaworms, urchins and more are at historic low levels. Meanwhile many of the bay's irreplaceable scenic  and sonic viewsheds and other natural assets have been degraded by inappropriate coastal development, and many more are threatened. Lobstermen have reported a new  and stubborn skin disease infecting from even the minor cuts and abrasions that occur on the job.

While overfishing and inappropriate fishing tech are part of the poor fish stocks picture, has a rise in larval mortality of many bay fish and shellfish species added another stress to these animals?  

The vast majority of the bay's hatchling  fish and shellfish do not survive their first year before falling to predators, sometimes, as in the case of the cod, even their own species

BAY POLLUTION Under the guidance of that board,  the Friends of Penobscot Bay will take up the task of reducing water pollution and cleaning up the 100s of legacy toxic and petroleum waste dumps and spills that were created in the 19th and 20th centuries. They will also keep an eye on the bay's many operating outfalls, each of which has strict limitations on the discharges they are allowed to make into Penobscot Bay. 

BAY REPLENISHMENT The Friends of Penobscot Bay will attempt to redevelop and replenish the diversified fisheries and scenic wonders that, once overwhelmingly bountiful, have declined in many reaches of Penobscot Bay over the last 300 years.

Let's hope the Friends of Penobscot Bay accomplish what they are setting out to do! 

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