Maine is pursuing an innovative approach to addressing climate change, one that promotes environmental stewardship while driving economic and job growth. Sustainable and eco-friendly aquaculture investment supports not only the state’s goals, but makes Maine a world leader in creating climate-friendly and responsible food production practices and supply chains.

The U.S. is a minor aquaculture producer, ranked 17th globally, but it is the leading global importer of fish and fishery products. Approximately 90 percent of the seafood we eat comes from abroad, over half from aquaculture.

Instead of importing our fish and exporting our dollars, Maine has rightly identified aquaculture as a prime opportunity to complement traditional fisheries and strengthen our Maine-made food systems.

Maine’s ambitious climate plan encourages increased growth of aquaculture, noting the potential to mitigate ocean acidification and improve water quality. The state’s economic development strategy promotes aquaculture development, specifically the ability to grow salmon to meet the global demand for safe, climate-responsible food sources.

And Maine’s Economic Recovery Committee, a group of economic experts and industry representatives tasked with making policy recommendations in the wake of the pandemic, endorses increased investment in aquaculture infrastructure and processing to foster innovation and add value.

Just like Maine, my company American Aquafarms believes there is tremendous opportunity to produce salmon safely and sustainably, while helping fight climate change and creating high quality jobs. That’s exactly why we’ve proposed a new aquaculture facility along the working waterfront in Gouldsboro.

Our closed-pen, ocean-based system addresses major challenges in the industry by controlling waste and preventing escapes. It eliminates the threat of sea lice and reduces the need for harmful chemicals. Perhaps most importantly, it raises fish in their natural habitat – the ocean.

Earlier this year, we filed a draft lease application with the Department of Marine Resources for two 60-acre sites in Frenchman Bay. The applications are subject to Maine’s rigorous, multi-step review process. This science-based decision-making process strengthens Maine’s maritime industry, while allowing it to diversify.

In addition to DMR, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also put our proposal through vigorous review, ensuring that we can follow Maine’s strict regulations and protect the state’s environment while providing opportunity for public involvement in the process.

American Aquafarms is confident that our project will meet these exacting standards.

We believe our project will complement Maine’s maritime heritage, while augmenting production of high-quality, sustainable seafood. Ultimately, we plan on establishing a hatchery, fish farm facilities and a state-of-the art processing plant.

In fact, we’ve already entered into an agreement to purchase the Maine Fair Trade Lobster facility in Gouldsboro and plan to make a substantial investment to redevelop the 11-acre site, pending regulatory approval.

The facility and its wharf would be the base for tending the Frenchman Bay pens. The fish would be processed on site and the existing warehouse would be converted into a hatchery. This new facility will result in hundreds of jobs and spur economic development far beyond its location.

American Aquafarms will need the workforce necessary to fill the jobs we’re creating. The announcement that the USDA is investing $500,000 in an aquaculture workforce pilot program at Washington County Community College demonstrates there will be Mainers ready with the technical skills necessary to fill these roles.  We look forward to working with community leaders, organizations and education institutions to ensure our project creates employment and learning opportunities for this generation and those that follow.

As we navigate the process set forth by the DMR for aquaculture, we know there will be questions. We are committed to listening, to making improvements and meeting the high standards that Maine demands. Ultimately, this project – and a successful aquaculture industry across the state – will result in a stronger, diversified coastal economy and a healthier, sustainable environment.


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