Kuterra, a British Columbian company that has grown Atlantic salmon in a land-based aquafarm since 2013, has rejected a first offer from the backer of a Bucksport aquafarm. Credit: Courtesy of Kuterra LP

The investor behind an indoor salmon farm proposed for Bucksport has failed in its first attempt to become the majority owner of one of the world’s first land-based salmon farms, located on Canada’s West Coast.

Members of the ‘Namgis First Nation, owners of the land-based Atlantic salmon farm Kuterra in British Columbia, rejected an offer from Emergent Holdings to buy an 88 percent stake in their company. Members voted 103-95 against the deal in balloting that ended July 2, Josephine Mrozewski, a spokeswoman for the First Nation, said Thursday.

But the deal, which Emergent pursued to give its Bucksport project the benefit of Kuterra’s experience, is not necessarily dead. Emergent Holdings is the parent company of Whole Oceans, the firm behind the Bucksport salmon farm.

Credit: Courtesy Kuterra LP

Kuterra Chairman Eric Hobson said the company “will seek to clarify which aspects of the proposed offer caused the greatest concern” with tribal members and proceed from there. Kuterra’s board of directors had recommended that tribal members accept the offer from Emergent.

“Kuterra will continue to grow out the fish that are currently in the facility under an existing management agreement with Emergent until the next steps have been finalized,” Hobson said in a statement released by Kuterra on Thursday.

Kuterra’s announcement came the same day as officials in Bucksport consider a proposal that would give Whole Oceans a 70 percent break on local property taxes over its first 20 years of operation. The town council will hold a public hearing on the proposal at its 7 p.m. meeting.

The ‘Namgis First Nation formed Kuterra and has been growing Atlantic salmon since 2013 at a facility owned by the nation on northern Vancouver Island. Kuterra was the first commercial-scale recirculating aquaculture system operation to grow Atlantic salmon in North America and the second such operation in the world. The facility uses the same technology Whole Oceans proposes to use in Bucksport.

Credit: Courtesy Kuterra LP

Emergent Holdings CEO Jacob Bartlett told the Vancouver Sun on June 3 that the Kuterra facility would be used to train staff for the Bucksport facility.

“They have an immense amount of technical expertise and [intellectual property] amassed over the past seven years, and to get that as we go through the design process for these other farms and get their input is crucial for us,” he told the newspaper.

With its Bucksport facility on the East Coast and the Kuterra plant in British Columbia, Emergent would be well positioned to capture at least 10 percent of North America’s Atlantic salmon market, Emergent officials have said.

Whole Oceans spokeswoman Angie Helton declined to comment on the vote.

Watch: Why so many fish farms are slated to open in Maine

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