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

Mar 29, 2019

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.