November 13, 2020


American Aquafarms to start salmon farm in Maine, US



American Aquafarms has proposed a salmon farm in Gouldsboro, Maine, the United States, that would draw US$300 million or more in investment and create hundreds of jobs in the area.


The company reached an agreement with East Coast Seafood to buy the Maine Fair Trade Lobster processing plant in Gouldsboro and build a hatchery and processing plant on the 11-acre site.


American Aquafarms CEO Mikael Roenes declined to disclose the purchase price but said that the deal is contingent on getting state approval to grow salmon in pens in Frenchman Bay, Gouldsboro. Roenes said the company expects to invest between US$50 million, and US$100 million to redevelop the plant property for processing salmon instead of lobster.


Roenes said he envisions a large-scale salmon production operation in Gouldsboro. The firm anticipates it would deploy 30 pens, each 150 feet wide, in lease sites in the bay. The pens would support a projected annual production of 30,000 tonnes or about 66 million pounds of the fish.


"The project would create hundreds of jobs, and the company would also look to establish a job training programme in the Gouldsboro area to help ensure that applicants are qualified," Roenes said.


He said: "It's a bit early to give an exact number," when asked to say more about the number and types of jobs American Aquafarms would create.


Roenes said he has been impressed with advances in aquaculture technology that have prompted some companies to pursue land-based fish farms in Maine, three of which are currently proposed in Belfast, Bucksport and Jonesport. But he said American Aquafarms is focused instead on using new generation pens that address some of the challenges of farming fish at sea as he feels fish should live in the ocean.


"We are most familiar with the sea," said Roenes, who, in 2018, worked to establish Norcod, a Norwegian cod farming firm, before founding American Aquafarms last year. "Fish should grow in its natural habitat."


"The company representatives have discussed the potential pen locations with local fishermen and sought the fishermen's advice to make sure the salmon farm would be compatible with other marine activities," he said.


Compared to the other three existing fish farms in Maine, the projected scale of the American Aquafarms' fish farm would make the operation similar to the size of Nordic Aquafarms' proposed land-based operation in Belfast, where Nordic Aquafarms said it plans to invest US$500 million and produce roughly 73 million pounds of salmon each year.


The company' pens would have cutting-edge designs to address problems that have been persistent at other sea-based fish farming sites, according to information on its website.


The pens would capture and remove fish wastes, draw water from varying depths in the bay to control temperature and prevent parasitic sea lice from getting into the pens.


Each pen would have two layers of barriers between the fish and the surrounding water, the outer layer of which would be a closed fabric sack made from a strong polymer membrane that would prevent fish escapes and predators from getting in.


"It demands a significant, higher investment, but we believe it is the future of ocean-based fish farming," Roenes said.


 - Bangor Daily News