BRUNSWICK — A local group of commercial fishermen asked the Maine Department of Marine Resources to throw out Mere Point Oyster Co.’s application for a 10-year, 40-acre lease in the middle of Maquoit Bay on the grounds that they are “rightfully entitled to use this space for fishing.”

“Why should we go away so a couple of people can use it exclusively?” Tom Santaguida asked the department at a public hearing Monday night.

The meeting marked the second night of the hearing over the company’s proposed expansion, which would increase its annual oyster harvest from about 60,000 this year to more than 1.5 million within three years. The department will evaluate the lease on factors like navigation, fishing and other uses, as well as noise and visual impact. The hearing will stretch into a third night, which has not yet been scheduled. The Concerned Citizens of Maquoit Bay, who began their testimony on Thursday, will resume at the next hearing.

The commercial fishermen, represented by Santaguida and John Powers, argued that the proposed 40-acre site is one that is fished often and at different times can be extremely lucrative.

If the lease is approved, “we’re gonna lose money, it’s as simple as that,” Dave Moody, a lobster fisherman, said during public comment.

Two different site reports gave conflicting information, Santaguida said. One said the area was rarely fished; the other said it had abundant activity.

Many fishermen have fished in this specific area for more than 75 years, he said, calling any other claims “inaccurate.”

Tyler and Cameron Niven, whose father, Doug Niven, co-owns Mere Point Oyster Co. with harbormaster Dan Devereaux, both have commercial fishing licenses.

Tyler Niven said he was “pretty torn,” and that as a college student away for much of the year, he does not haul as many traps as the men who fish for their livelihoods, but he does try to “keep up with you guys” and fish in similar areas. He does not set his traps in the proposed lease site because, not seeing many other traps there, “I can’t afford to waste” any extras.

However, Andrew Ulrikson, a fourth-generation lobster fisherman, said that where traps are laid one week or month is going to differ. “You chase lobsters when they’re there,” he said. “If I can’t go there because there’s something in the way, then I’m not going to stand for it.”

Several of the commercial fishermen also testified that eelgrass in the area is coming back and they have seen it when they have hauled up their traps – a direct contradiction to ecologist Alyssa Novak’s testimony on Thursday that the proposed lease site was incompatible with eelgrass growth. Eelgrass is underwater vegetation that serves as both a habitat for marine life and may also prevent erosion. Eelgrass was once abundant in Maquoit Bay but was wiped out around 2012, and is only just starting to make a reappearance, according to testimony.

Opponents also have expressed concerns that Devereaux and Niven could choose to sell to a larger company. However, Jon Lewis, the Department of Marine Resources’ aquaculture program director, said the department can attach conditions to a permit so that certain practices must be followed no matter who the leaseholder is.

Mere Point Oyster Co. also presented its final two witnesses on Monday. Terrence DeWan presented a visual impact assessment that determined that the proposal was in accordance with Department of Marine Resources requirements.

Charles Wallace, an environmental engineer specializing in environmental and architectural noise impact, testified that Niven and Devereaux were well within the noise requirements.

The Concerned Citizens of Maquoit Bay, also known as the Maquoit Bay Preservation Group, still needs to give its testimony. The Department of Marine Resources will schedule a date and must then provide at least 30 days notice ahead of time.

Hannah LaClaire can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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