By Sheila Dassatt

        The Maine lobster industry has had so many challenges that we have been facing in more recent years that our attention span has gone completely on one or two subjects. These subjects are North Atlantic Right Whales and the threat of Windmills based in the ocean. There are law suits happening more than I’ve ever seen before. We have been “black balled” or “red listed” by other organizations and health food stores. Now I’m seeing suing each other upon counter attacks. Who is making the most out of this, the lawyers? This is all very disturbing and a big concern for those of us that make a living on the ocean.

The question is, is all of this a diversion for other agendas? We really don’t have the exact answers, but it certainly makes your mind think about it.

With the whale agenda, now we have companies that are paying money to have fishermen try ropeless fishing. There must be a lot of money involved in the ropeless theory if there’s enough to pay people to “give it a try.” So where does all of this money come from? This is a legitimate question, because I truly don’t know the origin of a lot of it. So are we accepting funds from the whale people that came up with this brainstorm?

Talking about windmills now, I do have an understanding of the existence of newly designed ships that are made just to install windmills in the ocean. If you read the shipping magazines, they are even saying that there are great job opportunities involved with the development and placing of windmills. We are talking about companies that have millions of dollars, possibly billions of dollars to help make this all possible. One of the headlines goes like this: “Discover new ocean opportunities.” There is also logistics in the making to convert a Multi-Carrying Vessel (MCV’s) into a cable lay vessel (CLV). This is set to start operations in the third quarter of 2024. The main uses of this vessel will be to connect offshore wind farms with the mainland. So there is work in the making to carry out these plans.

Now, it has been brought to my attention that this is the major focus right now and while everyone is distracted by all of these issues, we have a great problem on our hands. This problem has been growing and spreading each year since it first started to appear in our North Atlantic waters. This problem is the ever present and spreading “sea squirts.” I had never seen one before, but I understand that they came into being from the bilges of the large tankers that traveled from other countries to deliver their goods in our country. This is one way that the invasive creatures come into our waters. Once they are here, we have a definite problem. We can worry about eel grass, kelp, sea urchins among other “green” concerns, but this one goes like this: nothing really wants to eat them, or grows on it and nothing seems to prevent them from spreading. They won’t harm people, but scientists are worried about the effects on marine life. There is evidence that shows sea squirts smother scallops and mussels, coat the sea floor, possibly making the area uninhabitable to fish eggs and shellfish larvae. These sea squirts could have potential ecological and financial impacts and is a fear of the scientists.

Like a creature that can be our worst nightmare, they can spread up and around a rock, smothering everything in its path, including shellfish. Tons of them have spread to docks, on pilings, in tide pools which look like wide lumpy mats. They spread to docks, lines, rocky sea beds and on boat hulls. As they have spread, they attach to our lobster traps and multiply very quickly. If for some reason that you can’t tend your traps due to bad weather or a breakdown, they grow inside and outside of the traps making them so heavy that it takes three people just to bring them over the rail. The only way to combat them is to take a “cooker” out on your boat and dip every single trap, just to clear them from the gear. Then, it only lasts for a short while and the process needs to be done again.

Now I could go on and on about these nasty little creatures, but it is a growing concern. How do we know if the shortfall in our catch, whether it is lobsters, scallops or mussels, isn’t due to the ocean bottom being smothered with these creatures.

We can do all that worrying in the world about the Whales and Wind, and now Cruise ships coming back, but while we’re worrying ourselves about all of that, these sea quirts are covering and spreading over our bottom like a cancer that is spreading. This can bite us in the butt if we don’t turn around and start doing something about them and soon!

Perhaps some of this funding that is being spread around should go to researching how to eliminate them before it is too late. Please stop and think about it.