American Aquafarms names Keith Decker as new CEO
American Aquafarms, which announced a plan to build a new salmon-aquaculture facility in the U.S. state of Maine a year ago – has hired Keith Decker as its new CEO.
Decker has been CEO of New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based Blue Harvest Fisheries since January 2018, when he replaced Jeff Davis, who retired. Decker previously served as the CEO of High Liner Foods from 2015 to 2017.
According to American Aquafarms Founder Mikael Roenes, Decker’s skill-set and experience with Blue Harvest made him an appropriate pick to lead American Aquafarms.
“Keith has the right resume, experience, and New England know-how to move American Aquafarms into the next generation of Maine’s maritime traditions,” Roenes said. “Additionally, I’m confident that Keith will collaborate with industry experts while recruiting the workforce we need to fill the year-round, high-quality jobs we’re creating.”
Decker will remain the CEO of Blue Harvest as the company searches for a successor, and will continue to be a board member and investor in the firm.
Under Decker’s tenure, Blue Harvest has expanded its fleet via the acquisition of vessels formerly owned by Carlos Rafael, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to falsifying fish quotas, tax evasion, and conspiracy and then subsequently settled a civil case with NOAA that forced him to cease all commercial fishing by 31 March, 2020. Some of the vessels acquired by Blue Harvest have already been brought online, while the ownership of other former Rafael vessels remain mired in a lawsuit filed earlier this year. Originally, Blue Harvest planned to purchase 15 vessels for USD 19.3 million (EUR 16.6 million).
Through Decker’s time as CEO, Blue Harvest has added 12 groundfish vessels, bringing its total fleet to 24 vessels – including scallopers, combination draggers, and trawlers. Decker also oversaw the addition of six high-capacity processing lines, direct offload capability, and increased freezing capacity.
“I’m proud of what we accomplished in wild-caught seafood at Blue Harvest. It was an honor to work with the port and city of New Bedford, America’s highest-revenue seaport,” Decker said.
American Aquafarms is planning to build a closed-net-pen aquaculture facility in Frenchman’s Bay, with a goal of producing 30,000 metric tons of salmon year. The company purchased an East Coast Seafood Group facility in Gouldsboro, Maine, in October 2020, and is moving into the permitting stage for its farm.
However, vocal opposition to American Aquafarms has arisen in Maine, with multiple local groups collaborating to fight the project. In July, the company hired Thomas Brennan to lead its public outreach efforts. Brennan told SeafoodSource the company welcomes input from anyone “willing to discuss rationally how we can modify this to accommodate for your concern.”
Decker said he is “eager to work on the opportunities that American Aquafarms is bringing to aquaculture.”
“By leveraging the state’s deep-water assets with next generation eco-friendly technology to sustainably produce food close to its market, we can set a new standard in the United States,” he said. “On just 20 acres of active sea farm, we can produce up to 66 million pounds of healthy fish per year without impacting the seabed.”
Photo courtesy of American Aquafarms