American Aquafarms has appealed the state’s decision to kill the company’s application for a fish farm in Frenchman Bay.
The Maine Department of Marine Resources terminated the Norwegian-backed company’s proposal to grow millions of pounds of Atlantic salmon in net pens off the shores of Gouldsboro last month, saying the company failed to select a proper source for its fish eggs.
Last week, the company filed an appeal in Cumberland County Superior Court asking the court to vacate the department’s decision and remand it to the department. In other words, the company wants the state to rethink the application.
In the complaint, the company says that the department set an arbitrary four-month deadline for information to approve a Canadian egg source and failed to give proper consideration to another potential source from Maine.
Last year, American Aquafarms told DMR that it intended to get salmon eggs from AquaBounty, a Canadian-based business that hadn’t previously been approved by the department of marine resources as an egg source. The state has strict restrictions on egg sources for sea-based farms to ensure any escaped fish don’t mix with other types of salmon.
In October 2021, American Aquafarms initiated the process to get AquaBounty approved and began gathering required information on testing protocols and genetic information about the eggs.
However, AquaBounty’s testing did not line up with Maine’s regulations. American Aquafarms then asked for an extension to the March 25 deadline so it could reconcile the data, according to the 12-page complaint. The company also proposed sourcing eggs from a federal hatchery in Franklin.
The department rejected the extension request, as well as the alternate source, saying that the hatchery was not meant to be used as a supply for commercial harvest programs.
American Aquafarms contends the four-month deadline had no factual basis and the denial of sourcing from the federal hatchery was arbitrarily decided by the department.
Department spokesperson Jeff Nichols said Thursday that American Aquafarms failed to demonstrate that AquaBounty could meet the state’s regulations to protect the marine environment. The agency stands by its decision, he said.
The complaint shows that the company is not giving up on getting 30 floating salmon pens in a 120-acre area of Frenchman Bay.
Environmental groups, lobstermen, Acadia National Park and residents along the bay have all banded together to oppose the project, fearing it could destroy the area’s water quality.
“This lawsuit reveals the extent of American Aquafarms’ determination to pollute Frenchman Bay with 4.1 billion gallons per day of untreated wastewater from their ill-conceived monster fish farm in Hancock County,” said Matt Dundas, a campaign director at Oceana, an ocean conservation group.
In the time between the application termination and the appeal, American Aquafarms bought the old Maine Fair Trade Lobster plant in Gouldsboro that it plans to use to support the farm.
Tom Brennan, American Aquafarms’ director of project development, said the company was planning to forge ahead in its efforts to bring the farm to fruition.
“We believe in the merits of the project,” Brennan said. “It’s a significant economic development opportunity for Hancock County.”