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Conservation groups applaud removal of salmon farm application

Sam Rogers

April 21, 2022

News Center Maine

MAINE, Maine — After the Maine Department of Marine Resources made a decision to terminate application permits for a proposed salmon farm project, 'Frenchman Bay United' held a news conference Thursday.

The group has opposed American Aquafarms' proposal for months ahead of the state's decision this week.

The group comprises multiple conservation groups and individuals in the area, including Save The Bay, Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Foundation, and Friends of Frenchman Bay.

“This project was a wake-up call. It’s time to get to work to make sure it can never happen again," Frenchman Bay United Board President Henry Sharpe said in the virtual press conference.

The DMR pulled American Aquafarms' permit applications because the company failed to show it could get a qualified source of fish eggs for the farm.

During Thursday's news conference, the location of the salmon farm, which was planned to be hosted off the coast of Acadia National Park, and the size of the site, were mentioned as the initial concerns of the proposed project.

On Wednesday, DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher told NEWS CENTER Maine those were not the reasons why the applications were pulled.

"While I'm aware those issues existed, at the end of the day, this decision was strictly around the egg source and whether or not it was appropriate to be putting into the marine environment," he added.

American Aquafarms can refile its permit applications with the state, but that would restart the years-long process over again, according to Keliher.

The company has not responded to repeated attempts for comment.

While those in opposition to the project are happy with the DMR decision, Sharpe said there were more significant concerns about the project that should have been addressed earlier.

“The project seems to potentially have been terminated on that technicality of the lack of eggs, rather than for the more substantive reasons that the science suggests that this thing would be a really bad thing for Maine," he added.

The group took questions from reporters on the call and went into detail about how now the DMR has an opportunity to review its permit and application process for future projects.

“If nothing else, I think there’s certainly an opportunity now to have a conversation statewide about whether or not we truly have the mechanisms, the apoprotein mechanisms, to really adequately assess what the impact of something along this scale would truly be," Jeri Bowers of Friends of Eastern Bay said.

Members of the group made it clear Thursday they are not against the aquaculture industry in Maine. They want the DMR to have different standards depending on the size of the project.

“Different regulations, it seems to me, should apply to different forms of aquaculture. Right now, that doesn’t really happen," Sharpe added.

If American Aquafarms does refile its application, members on the call said they would continue to fight against the project for years to come.

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