Back

Community Engagement

One of the most common mistakes of aspiring aquaculturists is neglecting the community aspects of site selection. Nothing sinks an application faster than choosing an area where activities such as fishing, navigation, or recreation already occur. Spend time meeting locals and understanding what kind of activities take place in an area before you decide on a particular site.

start-guide-02a-casco-bay-8700.jpg

Questions

Community Engagement

Start engaging with the community as soon as you start looking for the right site and maintain open communication with them as your plans solidify. Don't make the mistake of spending countless hours identifying a site that has optimal environmental and operational conditions only to find out later that the location is already being used by somebody else. It helps to get to know coastal landowners in the area, not just people who use the water.

A good place to begin is speaking with the local harbormaster. They can tell you who uses the area and help you identify who else to speak with. Fishing organizations such as the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and Mid-Coast Fishermen’s Association are other great resources you can use to find out who fishes in the area. The Maine Aquaculture Association can help you identify who uses an area and give specific advice for approaching important stakeholders. Additionally, don’t be afraid to approach people on the docks or in the water, being mindful to not disrupt their work.

Your lease application could be denied by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) for interfering with an existing use such as fishing, navigation, or recreational activities. Or, DMR does approve your site but restricts the size to a point of commercial inviability to prevent interference with existing uses. Strong opposition from community members could delay your lease application processing time by a year or more.

The Maine Aquaculture Association, Maine Sea Grant, and local sea farmers are all good sources of advice about how to approach coastal stakeholders.

No, but you should try! There is a lot of misinformation about aquaculture. Many people may have no idea about the myriad cultural, economic, environmental, and societal benefits that aquaculture offers to a community. Explaining the what, how, and why of your potential plans; and then genuinely listening to feedback, can turn skeptics into supporters.

You may also encounter people who are dogmatically opposed to aquaculture, regardless of the facts. At a certain point, it may become clear that nothing you say is going to change this person’s mind. Continued time and effort trying to discuss the proposed lease with them is a waste of time. Understand that however frustrating and unpleasant, this was time well spent because knowing their opposition points – especially if unfounded or exaggerated – allows you to address and neutralize them in the application and during your hearing. For example, if you know that they will claim an area where no one fishes is heavily fished, include extra information about fishing activity and get letters from local fishermen stating the truth.

Related Resources