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Maine’s Supreme Court Says Companies Don't Have The Right To Harvest Rockweed On Private Property

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Rockweed, which grows in the ocean's intertidal zone, provides food, shelter and a spawning habitat for a wide variety of animals and organisms including lobsters, mussels, snails, periwinkles and fish

Maine's Supreme Judicial Court says the company Acadian Seaplants doesn’t have the right to harvest rockweed on private intertidal property if the landowner says no.

Gordon Smith represented the plaintiffs in the case. He says Acadian Seaplants tried to argue that rockweed — a familiar seaweed that's attached to the sand but floats in the water — should be treated like clams, mussels, and worms, which are regulated as part of the public trust and aren't considered private property.

“Harvesting rockweed, a plant, doesn't fit within the definition of fishing, and it also constitutes an extractive use which sort of has a negative effect on the property value or the landowners use of their land," says Smith.

In a press release, Acadian Seaplants says the court's decision is "disappointing."

“Certainly this has a substantial impact on us, the whole company, and the whole marine plants industry,” says president and CEO J.P. Deveau.

In a press release, the company says it will now seek permission from landowners before harvesting rockweed — and Deveau says he plans to meet with both the company's legal team and Maine's Department of Marine Resources, to figure out how to proceed and if there's any avenue for an appeal.

Dave Preston, Maine Seaweed Council's President, released a statement saying, “Today's Law Court decision in favor of privatizing ownership of Maine’s rockweed resource is disappointing and a setback to Maine's sustainable rockweed harvesting industry. The MSC will continue to support its members who harvest rockweed and to protect working waterfronts and our marine industries. The MSC will also continue working closely with the Maine Department of Marine Resources towards the completion of an intelligent management plan to insure the sustainability of all commercially harvested seaweed species. This has been our goal since our founding in 1993 and today’s court decision will not deter us from insuring this fishery functions responsibly and pro-actively.”

Originally published March 28, 2019 at 2:54 p.m. ET.

Nora is originally from the Boston area but has lived in Chicago, Michigan, New York City and at the northern tip of New York state. Nora began working in public radio at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor and has been an on-air host, a reporter, a digital editor, a producer, and, when they let her, played records.