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

Kingfish Maine, a Dutch-owned firm looking to build a $110 million land-based fish farm in Jonesport, has been granted the final permits it needs from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The company also closed on the purchase of a 94-acre parcel of oceanfront property on Dun Garvan Road, off Route 187, where it plans to build tanks and other facilities for growing yellowtail, company officials said. The purchase price of the property has not been disclosed.

The approval of the final DEP permits and the purchase of the site means Kingfish Maine is on schedule to move ahead to pre-construction design and engineering of the full facility, company officials said.

“Today, Kingfish Maine is one step closer to achieving fully operational status, and we are ready to build on our proven blueprint, and scale our technology locally to service our network of distributors nationwide,” said Ohad Maiman, Founder and CEO of The Kingfish Company, the parent company of Kingfish Maine.

In recent months, Kingfish reached a deal with Whole Foods to sell its yellowtail products at all of the grocery firm’s locations nationwide, Kingfish officials said. Yellowtail, or seriola lalandi, often is identified as hamachi on sushi menus and has proven to be one of the most viable species, both commercially and biologically, for land-based aquaculture operations.

Earlier this year, Kingfish was granted a wastewater discharge permit from DEP that will allow the company to draw water from and discharge it back into nearby Chandler Bay. The water used for cultivating yellowtail in the company’s tanks on land will be free of pollutants and will match the ambient temperature of the bay when it is discharged, so as not to alter the bay’s lobster habitat, company officials have said.

The company still has to obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This summer, The Sierra Club appealed DEP’s approval of the discharge permit, saying that the department did not give sufficient consideration to impacts on sensitive eelgrasses, but the Board of Environmental Protection dismissed the appeal after determining the group lacked standing in the matter.

Kingfish Maine plans to grow between 6,000 and 8,000 metric tons, or around 13 million pounds, of yellowtail at the Jonesport site each year. The Kingfish Company also operates a land-based fish farm in Kats, Netherlands, which opened in 2018 and produces approximately 500 metric tons or more than 1 million pounds of yellowtail each year.

The planned Jonesport fish farm is one of four large-scale fish farms proposed along Maine’s eastern coast but is the only one of the four that would cultivate yellowtail, rather than salmon.

Nordic Aquafarms has plans to build a $500 million land-based salmon farm in Belfast, where it would produce nearly 73 million pounds of salmon each year, while Whole Oceans has been fully approved to develop a $180 million land-based salmon farm at the former Verso Paper mill site in Bucksport, where it hopes eventually to produce 44 million pounds annually.

The fourth firm, American Aquafarms, is looking to grow 66 million pounds of salmon in floating pens in Frenchman Bay and then to process that salmon at a former sardine cannery in Gouldsboro. All four proposals have varying degrees of local support, but the ones that would be in Belfast and Frenchman Bay also continue to face staunch opposition.

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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....