The Ocean May Be Subject To The Public Trust, But Private Owners Own The Seaweed

We recommend you pick up the opinion of Maine's Supreme Judicial Court in Ross v. Acadian Seaplants, Ltd., No. Was-17-142 (Mar. 28, 2019), because it deals with property rights in an area subject to the public trust. We think the court did a pretty good job of setting out the competing claims and the background of the oft-misunderstood public trust doctrine.  The issue was whether the public (in this instance, Acadian Seaplants) has the right under the jus publicum to harvest living rockweed, a seaweed which anchors itself to "the rocky ledges that accent [Maine]'s coastline." Slip op. at 1. Specifically, we are asked to determine whether rockweed is private property that belongs to the adjoining upland landowner who owns the intertidal soil in fee simple, or property that is held in trust by the State through the jus publicum for the public to harvest. Id. The court concluded that "rockweed in the intertidal zone belongs to the upland property…

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