American Aquafarms loses bid for essential lease

American Aquafarms' proposed facility in Gouldsboro, Maine.

American Aquafarms’ planned aquaculture project in Gouldsboro, Maine, U.S.A. hit a major setback as the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) decided it would no longer process the company’s lease applications.

American Aquafarms has been working to create a closed net-pen salmon farm in Frenchman’s Bay in Maine. To that end, the company purchased the former East Coast lobster facility in Gouldsboro and named Keith Decker as its CEO as the company negotiated the permit process for its farm.

On 20 April, the Maine DMR denied the company’s application for two leases in the bay, citing a lack of an approved egg source for its salmon. The Bangor Daily News reported American Aquafarms originally planned to source eggs from AquaBounty, but the company did not provide necessary documentation showing that AquaBounty meets the state’s egg-sourcing criteria.

“Our application for two leases in Frenchman’s Bay has been denied by Maine DMR, alleging a lack of an approvable egg source,” American Aquafarms Founder Mikael Rønes told SeafoodSource. “This means that the project is on pause so we can revaluate and do necessary adjustments to meet DMR’s requirement for an approvable egg source.”

American Aquafarms has not been outright denied a permit, but reapplying and going through the permitting process again will likely set the company’s timeline back by years, according to Maine DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher.

“This will put them out two to three years if they want to start over again,” Keliher told the Bangor Daily News.

The denial of the permit was welcome news for opponents of the project. The town of Gouldsboro enacted a moratorium on aquaculture projects and a number of local groups, including the Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Foundation and Frenchman Bay United, have vocally opposed the project.

“Protect Maine's Fishing Heritage Foundation, as part of Frenchman Bay United, couldn't be more pleased with this result,” PMFHF Executive Director Crystal Canney told SeafoodSource. “This is a blow to industrial scale aquaculture in the water and it will result in protecting Maine's future.”

Frenchman Bay United President Henry Sharpe also welcomed the news, and called on American Aquafarms to end its bid for a salmon farm.

“We are grateful that DMR came to this conclusion but it has been a lot of work by a significant number of concerned groups and citizens,” Sharpe said. “The environmental and economic impacts would have been significant. We are asking American Aquafarms to end this ill-conceived project now.”  

Image courtesy of American Aquafarms


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