Portion of Penobscot River closed to lobster fishingClosure due to mercury pollution
Stockton Springs — Maine's Department of Marine Resources announced Feb. 22 the immediate closure of part of Penobscot Bay off Stockton Springs to lobster and crab fishing.
The Fort Point-area lobster fishery has been closed due to high levels of toxic mercury contamination found in surrounding parts of the Penobscot River and its local marine life.
The exact area closed is from the waters north of a line starting at the most northwestern point of Wilson Point in the Town of Castine continuing in a northwesterly direction to the Fort Point Lighthouse on Cape Jellison in the Town of Stockton Springs.
"The justification for the chosen boundary of the closed area is based on recent data provided to the Department that indicates that lobsters in this area may have mercury levels above the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (MECDC) action level," stated a notice of the emergency rule-making adoption by the DMR.
Ken "Skeet" Wyman, a lobsterman from Stockton Springs, said that he agrees with the state closing that area, given what they have found. However, he said it would cause some difficulties for him.
"I've been fishing here for 26 years and I catch a fair amount of crab up there," Wyman said. "For me it'll be cramping my style a bit, but regardless the state did the right thing."
According to a press release from Maine People's Alliance, a court-appointed scientific panel determined the source of the mercury contamination in the river is the HoltraChem chemical processing plant, which dumped tons of mercury into the Penobscot, mostly in the late 1960s.
A former owner of the plant, Mallinckrodt US LLC, was found liable for polluting the river in 2002 as the result of a lawsuit brought by the Maine People’s Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council, stated the release. However, Mallinckrodt is contesting its role in a clean-up. A new trial will begin on May 7.
"Closing this small portion of the fishery was a smart and responsible move by the State," said Maine People's Alliance executive director Jesse Graham. "We need to protect local residents from harmful contamination and also ensure the ongoing health and vitality of Maine's iconic lobster industry."