Portion of Penobscot River closed to lobster fishing

Closure due to mercury pollution
By Dan West | Feb 19, 2014

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."

Comments (3)
Posted by: Diana B Hyk | Feb 25, 2014 13:04

It is unfortunate that someone from the DMR couldn't have attended the Army Corps of Engineers' Public Meeting last night in Bangor. According to the ACE all the core samples taken in the Penboscot are harmless ( though the ACE samples aren't  recent) yet new core samples ( by Court Order) abutting  Searsport by the DMR have shut down all lobstering. The iconic "Maine Lobster Brand" and Tourism in Penobscot Bay can only be harmed by this hugh dredging project.

Christopher Hyk

Posted by: Marilyn Jane Boyer | Feb 23, 2014 14:08

In addition, I am wondering if the Maine DMR or any other agency has addressed the effect this pollution might have on recreational use of the Fort Point area of the river, and the area of Mack Point if the dredging occurs.

Posted by: Anthony Charles Kulik | Feb 20, 2014 09:19

So I wonder where the lobster fishers will go when the dredging and dumping of sediment from Mack Point releases centuries of toxins accumulated over the last hundred years.

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