Major land-based aquaculture projects near beginning of construction in Maine
Three major land-based aquaculture projects – Atlantic salmon farms planned by Nordic Aquafarms and Whole Oceans, and The Kingfish Company’s yellowtail farm – are all set to initiate construction in coming months in the U.S. state of Maine.
Fredrikstad, Norway-based Nordic Aquafarms won a key legal victory in November 2021 and, in August 2021, it obtained the last permit it needed to begin construction on its land-based salmon farm in Belfast, Maine, U.S.A., where it hopes to grow up to 33,000 metric tons (MT) of salmon annually.
In Jonesport, Maine, The Kingfish Company’s plan to build a land-based farm to produce up to 8,500 MT of yellowtail per year advanced with the November approval of two final permits by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. On Monday, 29 November, it announced it has concluded the purchase of land, enabling the “to advance to pre-construction design and engineering on schedule.”
"These announcements represent a major milestone in The Kingfish Company's execution of its expansion strategy, and its focus on technology driven local production of high-value import dependent seafood in the E.U. and the U.S.,” Kingfish Company Founder and CEO Ohad Maiman said in a press release. "Today, Kingfish Maine is one step closer to achieving fully operational status, and we are ready to build on our proven blueprint, and scale our technology locally to service our network of distributors nationwide."
Kingfish Maine is a subsidiary of The Kingfish Company, which is based in Kats, The Netherlands, where it also operates a land-based yellowtail farm. The company said it will “deploy the same advanced technology and operational excellence proven in the Netherlands to become the largest producer of yellowtail kingfish in the U.S. once the Jonesport facility is operational.”
In Bucksport, Maine, Whole Oceans’ plan to build a land-based Atlantic salmon farm capable of eventually producing up to 50,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon annually has been on hold for two years, despite receiving approval from the Bucksport Planning Board and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in 2019. The company, owned by Portland, Maine-based Emergent Holdings, originally planned to break ground in the spring of 2020 but pushed back the date due to a number of factors, including its acquisition of 10-acre adjoining parcel a year ago that necessitated a redesign of the project.
“Aquaculture at this level is complex, and the addition of [the second parcel] creates even more opportunities that must be considered,” Whole Oceans Senior Project Coordinator Michael Thompson said at the time. “So, while you may not see a shovel in the ground yet, know that our team is working hard to develop the best designs that will result in a world-class facility for Bucksport and the state of Maine.”
Whole Oceans spokesperson Angie Helton told SeafoodSource on Friday, 3 December the company expects to make public “significant updates” on the project in the first quarter of 2022. She declined further on-the-record comment until those updates are made.
Bucksport Code Enforcement Officer Luke Chiavelli told the Bangor Daily News yet hasn’t received additional construction applications from the company needed to for sitework on the newly-acquired parcel, but he said he had expected the company would start at least some groundwork on original lot by this time.
“If they wanted to start digging … today, they’re good to go,” he said.
Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard confirmed Whole Oceans has paid all its taxes owed and is in full compliance with its permits. The company’s approval from the town planning board remains valid for five years and Lessard said she expected the company would likely apply for an extension given the size and complexity of the project.
“I don’t have anything to tell me they’re not going to [move ahead],” Lessard said.
Town official remains supportive of the project, though Chiavelli told the Bangor Daily news it was “discouraging” the project has passed the two-year mark since it received approval without any significant sitework completed yet.
Whole Oceans has rotated through three CEOs since 2018 – Rob Piasio, Jason Mitchell, and Jacob Bartlett have all left the company, and the company is in search of a new CEO, Lessard said.
Whole Oceans’ other land-based farming project, Kuterra LP, a recirculating aquaculture system in British Columbia, Canada, continues to achieve its production goals, and the company is using the facility to create best practices for its Maine operations, Helton told SeafoodSource.
Photo courtesy of Whole Oceans