Joe McElwee, chief production officer for Whole Ocean's planned Bucksport land-based salmon farm. Credit: Courtesy of Whole Oceans

The company planning an indoor salmon farm at the former Bucksport paper mill site has added an executive with 36 years of experience in land-based fish production to its team.

Whole Oceans announced Monday that it hired Joe McElwee, who recently worked as head of sales for Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems in North Carolina, as chief production officer for the facility.

“His knowledge of the technical design and operation of [recirculating aquaculture system] facilities is unparalleled,” Whole Oceans CEO Rob PIasio said in a news release. “He is a key member of our senior management and we will leverage his knowledge and wisdom toward our goal of capturing 10 percent of the U.S. Atlantic salmon market.”

McElwee earned a master’s degree in business administration from Open University in Ireland, as well as a certification diploma in aquaculture from the Galway Institute of Technology. He’s worked for hatcheries and other aquaculture sites in Ireland, the United States and Canada.

“The aquaculture industry is expanding and developing rapidly, and now is the perfect time for land-based aquaculture in the USA,” McElwee said. “To have the opportunity to bring my knowledge of the technology, growing experience and business to Whole Oceans, one of the premier land-based developments in the United States, is very exciting.”

Whole Oceans expects to start work on the salmon farm at the former Verso paper mill site along the Penobscot River later this year, assuming it gets permits and approvals on schedule. The farm would produce 5,000 tons of Atlantic salmon per year, and the company anticipates a total investment of about $250 million.

Nordic Aquafarms, a Norwegian firm, is planning a second land-based salmon farm that would produce about 30,000 tons per year in Belfast.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.

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