Spring in Maine. Also known as mud season. Regardless of what we call it, it’s a busy time of year for Maine’s coastal towns. Fishermen start hauling their gear, traps and buoys by the truckload, down to the shore, elvers start running, and then alewives. All are harbingers of the warm, busy days that lie ahead along Maine’s working waterfront.
At Acadian Seaplants, we get busy when Spring rolls around too. But who are we, and what exactly do we do? Our Maine base of operations is in Columbia Falls (we’re right next to the giant Blueberry on Rt. 1 – you can’t miss it!). You’ll see our harvest boats there in the off season, and this time of year, you’ll see our guys working on them and getting them ready to launch. We have about 30 boats, they operate in Cobscook and the Jonesport area. And we have two mechanical harvesters as well, those operate further to the west. Here in Maine we have 5 full time employees, three who oversee the harvest operations plus a director (that’s me!) and a resource biologist who works with our science team, ensuring our harvest is sustainably managed.
We are rigorous about our operations, but first and foremost, we are rigorous about our science. We are dedicated to the sustainability of the resource and harvest only 17% of the rockweed biomass. In Maine, in addition to having a license, the only requirement for harvesting is that you cut at least 16” from the holdfast – the part of the seaweed that attaches to the rock. We go a step beyond this and harvest only 17% of what’s available. There’s a business reason for this of course, but there’s also an overall company recognition that any wild resource that’s harvested must be done so sustainably. And we’ve been sustainably harvesting rockweed for over 35 years. Currently we’re working with other stakeholders – University of Maine, Inland Fish and Wildlife to look at rockweed as habitat as well. There is virtually no by-catch in our harvest, but we seek to ensure sustainability in all aspects of our harvest.
Operationally, we are focused in Washington County, which is an economically challenged area of Maine. We create jobs (seasonal and year-round) and we do a tremendous amount of business locally – all our transportation is locally contracted (Look Lobster) as well as maintenance on all our outboards (Whitney’s Tri-Town); Mechanical Harvesters refits and maintenance (Billings Marine in Stonington). Oh yeah, and don’t forget, all the food our guys eat after a day of working on the boats, that’s also locally purchased and consumed!
If you happen to be driving way downeast and you see us right next to the big blueberry, stop in and say hello. Maybe by June all the snow will be gone.