Maine resistance hampers approval of aquaculture projects

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Aquaculture projects in Maine have repeatedly run into challenges, as the industry is forced to push town by town to secure approval to allow growers to expand within the state.

Nordic Aquafarms and Kingfish Maine both found that the permitting process in Maine was longer and more burdensome than their European companies faced, in Norway and the Netherlands respectively, according to representatives at the Northeast Aquaculture Conference.

While Nordic has now currently been granted state and federal approval to build a land-based salmon farm in the city of Belfast, Maine, Kingfish is waiting for approval from both the local town of Jonesport and the Army Corps of Engineers before moving ahead with its land-based farm.

The state took a firmer approach to American Aquafarms last week, terminating its applications to build a closed net pen salmon farm in Frenchman Bay. While American Aquafarms can resubmit a new series of applications for its project, the setback would delay the company’s plans for years.

Whole Oceans, a land-based salmon farm, is set to break ground on its planned farm in Bucksport in the next few months, having secured approval for the project back in 2019. The project found itself embroiled in a legal dispute between the parent company of Whole Oceans, Emergent Holdings, and GNP Consulting, which was brought in to support aquaculture projects before later being terminated. The firing was reportedly due, in part, to the consulting firm underestimating the cost of the planned farm by $150 million.

Addressing members of the aquaculture industry at the conference in Portland on Thursday, Maine Aquaculture Association President Sebastian Belle blamed the slow progress experienced by companies on efforts to kill projects at the local level.

“The big thing we are facing now in Maine is the gentrification of the coastline,” Belle stated, adding that companies “are having to go town to town and tell our story.”