Kelp farmers get lease off Chebeague Island

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AUGUSTA — The Department of Marine Resources on Feb. 8 granted a three-year lease of 3.03 acres off Chebeague Island to Ocean Approved LLC. The Portland company plans to use the plot as an experimental kelp farm.

Ocean Approved must pay the annual $100 per acre lease fee, post a $5,000 bond, and notify the U.S. Coast Guard that it plans to install equipment on the site before it can begin working. Those administrative tasks will take at least three weeks, said Paul Dobbins, the company’s co-owner.

The company’s application was opposed by some Chebeague Island lobstermen. Ernest Burgess, a lobsterman who requested a hearing on the application before the Department of Marine Resources, said he would not seek judicial review of the final decision.

Ocean Approved previously received a three-year lease for the same activity in water off Jewell Island on Jan. 24. The company sells most of their kelp to local markets, and ships a small amount to Southern California, Dobbins said. It hopes to expand sales in the latter half of this year, he said, and eventually may move into exporting kelp to foreign markets.