Nordic Aquafarms wins one court victory, faces another legal battle in Maine

The Cumberland County Superior Court in Maine.

Nordic Aquafarms, which is seeking to build a land-based Atlantic salmon farm in the U.S. state of Maine, won a court victory on 1 September that ended a challenge to the permitting of its proposed recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) farm.

Waldo County Superior Court Justice Robert Murray ruled in favor of Nordic Aquafarms, quashing a request by nonprofit and project opponent Upstream Watch, to require an official review of the authorizations given to the project.

The project's authorizations were granted by the City of Belfast, Maine, and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, giving it permitting and leases required for the company’s intake and outfall pipes. Murray denied all appeals of the grants, and affirmed the permits and leases given by all of Maine's government entities.

“In the three years since applications for permits were submitted, we’ve seen them approved on all three levels- city, state, and federal,” Nordic Aquafarms CEO andCFO Brenda Chandler said in a release. “Our project has been thoroughly vetted by every regulatory, municipal, and judicial body and in every challenge to-date, the positive results demonstrate the integrity of our permits and project. Each day brings us closer to the production of ultra-fresh, sustainably raised, healthy seafood and we remain steadfast in our commitment to Belfast.”

On 8 September, Nordic Aquafarms was back in court, this time presenting oral arguments before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on an appeal of a case the company won in 2021. The case stems from owners of land near where Nordic Aquafarm’s plans to put its intake and outfall pipes asserting that the company doesn’t have the right to the land. 

In 2021, Murray ruled in favor of Nordic, saying that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit – Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace – have no right, title, or interest to the land that Nordic Aquafarms has secured to run the pipes.

The roots of the case stem from the interpretation of multiple deeds for the property and how each deed conveyed its land, which would determine whether or not Nordic Aquafarms ultimately had the rights to the land it plans to use for its pipes. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that a deed written in 1946 specifically separated the intertidal land from the rest of the land in the deed, raising ownership problems for Nordic Aquafarms.

The case’s outcome won’t be known for some time, but Upstream Watch President Amy Grant said regardless of the courty's decision, the organization will continue to pursue litigation to stop Nordic Aquafarms from advancing its project.

“We’re going to be back here at some point fairly soon,” she told SeafoodSource.

At issue, according to Grant, are multiple potential legal battles, including the way the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Board of Environmental Protection decided on a few key issues related to the Nordic Aquafarms’ permitting process. After that, Grant said, is an eminent domain case that could be heard by the courts after the city of Belfast, Maine seized disputed properties to end the conflict over ownership.  

Photo courtesy of the Maine Judicial Branch


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