Seal Island, near Matinicus (location of a shooting among embattled lobstermen earlier this year), Vinalhaven and Isle au Haut, was used for bombing practice during World War II.
It seems sea urchin divers discovered unexploded ordnance in the form of “several hundred” bombs or shells in island waters, according to the Bangor Daily News.
In response to what the Coast Guard is calling a danger zone, a new safety zone for the area was expanded to include local lobster grounds.
When Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) met with Coast Guard officials to discuss the ruling, they concurred that the benefits of keeping the fishery open for already-struggling lobstermen outweighed the unknown risk and withdrew the rule.
What surprises me is how long it has taken the Maine Department of Marine Resources — or anyone else, for that matter — to ask the Coast Guard — or anyone in the federal government responsible for errant munitions — to consider removing unexploded bombs from fishing grounds.
(According to the article, “The DMR planned to ask the agency to consider a mitigation plan for the island.” That is, no one has asked yet; they’re just planning on asking someone to think about it.)
Are we to expect fishermen to avoid the area or risk being blown up because we don’t bother to clean up our own messes?
If this is the federal attitude toward water resources, it’s no wonder fishermen are losing ground.