Jacob Bartlett is the new CEO at Whole Oceans, the company planning to build a land-based Atlantic salmon farm in Bucksport. Credit: Photo courtesy of Whole Oceans

The company that plans to build one of Maine’s first land-based Atlantic salmon farms on the site of the former Verso Paper mill in Bucksport has a new leader.

Jacob Bartlett will become Whole Oceans’ acting CEO as the company looks to break ground in Bucksport later this year. In that role, Bartlett will take a leading role in the project’s permitting and construction phase. Bartlett is currently the CEO of Whole Oceans’ parent company and investment arm, Emergent Holdings, and will remain in that role in addition to becoming acting CEO of Whole Oceans.

Company President Jason Mitchell is stepping back from his role as Whole Oceans’ leader in Bucksport but will retain the title of president, said Angie Helton, Whole Oceans’ spokeswoman.

The change in leadership comes as the Whole Oceans looks to break ground on its salmon farm by the end of the year. It bought about 90 acres of the former paper mill site, which shut down in 2014, in May. A first phase of the salmon farm’s development, estimated at $180.6 million, could create as many as 75 jobs in a town that lost its major employer five years ago and is looking to revitalize itself.

Success with the salmon farm could put Maine at the forefront of a fledgling national industry. The salmon farm in Bucksport would be entirely based on land using recirculating aquaculture systems that flush seawater through large fish tanks and back out to sea. The technology has had only limited commercial success so far in North America with the production of Atlantic salmon.

A number of companies across North America are racing toward this goal, including Nordic Aquafarms, which plans to build a $500 million land-based salmon farm in Belfast.

Whole Oceans hired Mitchell in May 2018. He had previously worked at Bath Iron Works, most recently as director of ground assembly.

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

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