A lobster boat in Jonesport points across Moosabec Reach toward Beals in this Nov. 30, 2018 photo. Kingfish Zeeland, a Dutch yellowtail seafood firm, said Wednesday that it plans to build a $110M land-based yellowtail aquaculture facility in Jonesport. Credit: Bill Trotter

A Dutch aquaculture company plans to build a $110 million land-based fish aquaculture site in Jonesport, company officials said Wednesday.

Officials from Kingfish Zeeland, which specializes in growing yellowtail for the European seafood market, met with residents Wednesday evening at the local library to share information about their plans to develop an approximately 90-acre site east of the village off Route 187 into a fish production facility.

The proposal is the latest from a land-based aquaculture seafood firm to make a heavy investment in building on the Maine coast.

Whole Oceans is pursuing plans to build a $180 million land-based salmon aquaculture facility at the former Verso paper mill site on the tidal Penobscot River in Bucksport. Nordic Aquafarms, based in Norway in Europe, is proposing to build a $500 million land-based aquaculture facility in Belfast.

By indicating they plan to invest more than $110 million in Jonesport, a lobster-fishing community of 1,400 residents in coastal Washington County, Kingfish Zeeland is bringing an end to speculation about where in the U.S. it might set up shop. Last spring, the firm indicated it was looking to expand across the Atlantic Ocean and had identified 22 sites along the East Coast, including two unspecified locations in Maine.

Ohad Maiman, CEO of the Dutch firm, said that in considering sites in Maine, Jonesport felt “quite familiar to us.” The long history of lobster fishing in Jonesport and the neighboring town of Beals, and the established presence of aquaculture operations along the Down East coast, were appealing to the Dutch company, he said.

The initial plan is to employ 70 people, 60 of whom would not need prior specialized experience to work at the plant, Maiman said. The plant would start out producing 6,000 metric tons of fish per year, but the goal would be to expand over time and to add more jobs as the facility grows in size.

“The last few months we’ve been trying to keep it under the radar,” Maiman said of its Jonesport plans. “It was important for us to first talk to the townspeople before making an arbitrary decision and letting them read about it in the newspaper. We have no interest in pushing ourselves where we are not welcome. The final critical piece of the puzzle was to see that they would like us here as much as we would like to be here.”

If permitting goes without any major issues cropping up, Maiman said, the firm could start construction in early 2021. Already, he said, the company has started conducting survey work on the site.

Construction likely would take another 12 to 18 months to complete before the plant becomes operational.

“It is a high priority to us to get it done as soon as possible,” Maiman said.

Dwight Alley, one of Jonesport’s three selectmen, said Wednesday evening that the proposed fish facility would be a “huge” deal for the town, and the area.

“Most of the work here is seasonal,” Alley said, referring to lobster fishing. “If you can have some year-round jobs, it will make a big difference in people’s lives.”

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....