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Rockweed bill approved in House, Senate

The Quoddy Tides of Eastport, Maine

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Legislation to change the rockweed harvesting laws in Maine was amended by the legislature's Marine Resources Committee, following a hearing on March 24, and the committee's majority report has received votes of approval in the House and the Senate. During the hearing, opposition to the bill had been voiced by both seaweed harvesters and conservationists.

On March 26 the committee voted 10-2 in favor of a majority report that removes the reference to conserved lands in determining whether an area should be designated as a no-harvest area, a reference that had been opposed by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Conservationists, though, argued that the burden of proof should on harvesters, not conservation groups, to show why conserved lands should be open to rockweed cutting.

The minority report of the committee, which was favored by two members, would have defined rules for establishing no-harvest areas as major substantive rules that require legislative oversight, instead of only DMR review as routine technical rules. Conservationists had favored that proposed change so that there would be greater opportunity for public input in establishing no-harvest areas.

As in the original bill, the amended version would have a working group formed that would include scientists and experts with expertise related to rockweed harvesting. The group would develop criteria for areas that are to be seasonally or permanently closed to harvest. The legislation requires the commissioner of marine resources to present a statewide management plan for rockweed to the legislature by January 31, 2015.

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Original Publication Date: April 11, 2014

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