Seaweed invasion clogs Rockport Harbor

[USA] Joe Sternowski has firsthand knowledge of the impact from a massive influx of seaweed into the section of Rockport Harbor adjacent to Marine Park.

The seaweed repeatedly got tangled in the propeller of Sternowski’s outboard motor, forcing him to use an oar to get the skiff to a town float.

Rockport Harbor Master Abbie Leonard said Wednesday the accumulation of the seaweed began over the weekend and has increased during the week. Leonard said she has not seen such a concentration of seaweed in the harbor as is occurring this week.

In addition to the seaweed, trash such as plastic bags are getting caught up in it, making it even more difficult for boaters to navigate through the thick mess.

Seaweed clogs a section of Rockport Harbor at the mouth of the Goose River. BDN photo by Stephen Betts
Seaweed clogs a section of Rockport Harbor at the mouth of the Goose River. BDN photo by Stephen Betts

“I’m a firm believer in letting nature take its course,” Leonard said, but she pointed out that this amount of seaweed concentrated in the area where the floats are located makes it difficult for boaters. She said in addition to the seaweed getting tangled in propellers, boaters also are getting the seaweed sucked into the intake valves used to cool engines.

The town is considering remediation efforts, she said, because of the hazard to navigation. Leonard said disposal of the seaweed, once it is removed, would be the greatest challenge.

The seaweed is still fresh, so there is no odor problem yet, the harbor master said.

Sternowski said the seaweed is more than a foot thick at some points.

Sternowski said the large mass of seaweed was seen earlier in the week farther out in the harbor, but a south wind forced it into the small section by Marine Park at the mouth of the Goose River. Marine Park has a boat ramp and floats.

Sgt. Matt Talbot of the Maine Department of Marine Resources said while he is not an expert on seaweed, he knows it naturally detaches from rocks and then tends to clump together and can be carried by tide and currents.

“This is naturally occurring, but I wouldn’t argue that what Rockport is seeing is out of the ordinary,” he said.


Photo: Stephen Betts | BDN Joe Sternowski of Rockport is forced to use an oar to maneuver his skiff as the engine propeller got tangled in a mass of seaweed in Rockport Harbor.

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