To the editor:
I went to the screening of “Lobster Wars” that occurred at the Cape Ann Museum on June 4. In the panel discussion after the movie, Larry Stepenuck was the only one who brought up the devastating effects and disturbances on the lobstermen and fishermen by the fish farms. These polluting enterprises and associated infrastructure take out huge chunks of the ocean that the fishermen and lobsermen could otherwise fish in (both vertically and horizontally). What’s left is getting slimmer all the time. Here, NOAA wants the lobstermen to develop ropeless lobster traps in order to protect the right whales. Meanwhile, NOAA and the Army Corps of Engineers turned around last year and awarded one of the Saltonstall-Kennedy grants to the development of a fish farm in the Critical Zone. Not only do the fish farms kill all life on the ocean floor (which does not grow back when the farms are gone), but they also break up in storms and are strewn all over our coastline. The result is that escaping farmed fish can now breed with wild fish; this is happening all over the world.
The whales will inevitably encounter the fish farms, especially if there is a school of plankton, krill, or other forage fish in the area. This is a huge issue that nobody but a lobsterman even mentioned in the panel discussion. Let me further remind you that we now have two mussel farms off Cape Ann, thanks to NOAA’s assistance. One is in Sandy Bay off of Rockport and one in Hodgkins Cove off of Bayview. Speaking of the Hodgkins Cove mussel farm, when I went to the talk at the Lanesville Community Center last year about plans for the UMass Gloucester Marine Station, their people knew nothing of the mussel farm development off their waters! Everybody is in their own little bubble here, and nobody is aware of what others are doing in their area. Meanwhile, the effects are going to be huge. Everybody is asleep at the wheel.
I recommend that Anthony SanFilippo goes for this year’s Saltonstall-Kennedy grant with his “Extreme Fishing School.” I’d rather see him get the grant than another fish farm that potentially will put more lobstermen out of business. Massachusetts shares with Connecticut and Rhode Island the only protected ocean area on the east coast (the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument). The deep-water lobstermen will no longer be able to fish there. I think that the lobstermen are taking another big hit with them being asked to develop ropeless traps and to deal with more protected waters to help save the whales. But no one is talking about the devastating effects of the fish farms on the whales, lobstermen and fishermen. There needs to be a serious discussion about the fish farms soon, or the lobstermen and fishermen are going to be history.
Gloucester’s 400-year anniversary is coming up in 2023. Let’s turn this bleak picture around, if we can, and show we are proud of where we come from. I know I am.