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Judge: Rockweed on Private Land Isn't Public Property

Sarah Redmond
University of Maine Sea Grant
Rockweed coats the shoreline on the Maine coast.

A Washington County Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of several shorefront property owners who maintain that rockweed, a form of seaweed, is not a resource that falls under the public trust.

In his ruling, Justice Harold Stewart II concluded that rockweed growing in the intertidal zone is the property of the shorefront owner and should not be construed to be included under exemptions that include fishing.

The case before Justice Stewart sought clarity on the question of who owns rockweed in Maine and pitted Washington County landowners against Acadian Seaplants Ltd., one of the largest processors of seaweed products in the world.

Gordon Smith, a Portland attorney, represents the landowners in the case and says his clients were understandably pleased with the results.

“The plaintiffs are very happy with the decision, not only because it was a pretty comprehensive victory on their behalf but because the judge really took a lot of time and effort to dig into legal issues,” he says. “He did a very thorough review of all the precedent involved and on the basis of that, he arrived at what we think is the compelling decision: that the rockweed is owned by the intertidal landowner.”

Smith says he fully expects the case to be appealed to the Maine Supreme Court.