The shuttered Maine Fair Trade Lobster plant in Gouldsboro sits on 11 acres of land next to Route 186 in the local village of Prospect Harbor. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Fair Trade Lobster

A former seafood processing plant in Gouldsboro is being put up for auction next month by a man hired two years ago to lead efforts to create an industrial salmon farm in Frenchman Bay.

The shuttered cannery was acquired by American Aquafarms last year from East Coast Seafood, which had operated it for a few years as a lobster processing plant. Prior to that, it had been a sardine cannery for 100 years before being shuttered in 2010.

American Aquafarms signed ownership of the 100,000-square-foot building to Keith Decker in March “as collateral for a loan he had made to the company,” according to a statement issued Friday on Decker’s behalf.

The change in ownership and plan to auction the building comes on the heels of Decker’s resignation from his role as CEO, which a spokesman for American Aquafarms said he submitted last week. The spokesman declined further comment.

American Aquafarms owed Decker $1,125,000, the Ellsworth American newspaper reported in March.

American Aquafarms is a subsidiary of Blue Future Holdings, a Norwegian-based company that had sought to establish a large salmon farm in Frenchman Bay. The company’s proposal was met with staunch opposition, including a November 2021 moratorium approved by Gouldsboro voters banning the development of large-scale aquaculture projects.

Also in 2021, state regulators dismissed the company’s application over insufficient information about where the firm would obtain the salmon eggs that it intended to cultivate in the bay. The company filed an appeal of the state’s decision a year ago in court, but withdrew its appeal two months later.

Company officials said when they withdrew the appeal in July 2022 that they still intended to pursue approval for the project, but there has been no comment or apparent effort by the firm to move it forward since then.

However, with the departure of the CEO and the transfer of the processing plant, coupled with no word from American Aquafarms since the appeal withdrawal, the project’s future seems unlikely.

Thomas Brennan, director of project development for American Aquafarms, did not return a request for comment about the planned auction early Friday afternoon.

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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....