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DMR terminates American Aquafarms’ applications

By: Letitia Baldwin

April 21, 2022

Mount Desert Islander

BOOTHBAY — American Aquafarms’ two incomplete lease applications to raise 66 million pounds of Atlantic salmon annually at two sites near Bald Ledge and Long Porcupine Island in Frenchman Bay have been terminated by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The state agency cited the Norwegian-backed company’s apparent failure to furnish an “available source” of juvenile fish to stock the two proposed 15-pen sites, according to a press release late Wednesday.

In late winter, the DMR told The Ellsworth American that American Aquafarms’ applications had not been deemed complete because the company’s proposed source of juvenile fish, U.S.-owned AquaBounty Canada, had not applied for a permit to supply juvenile salmon for use in U.S. coastal waters and therefore lacked standing as an approved source. The fish, which would have been supplied by AquaBounty’s Newfoundland hatchery, did not meet the criteria for a “Qualified Source/Hatchery” as defined in DMR regulations (Chapter 24).

“Additionally, American Aquafarms failed to provide documentation demonstrating that the proposed source of fish/eggs could meet genetic requirements in law (60714).” AquaBounty is credited with having produced the first genetically modified Atlantic salmon at Memorial University. Genetically engineered fish are not permitted and do not qualify as an acceptable source for stocking salmon pens in coastal Maine waters.

“No further action will be taken on these applications,” the DMR press release states.

In a Sept. 27, 2021 letter to American Aquafarms, DMR’s Aquaculture Division Director Marcy Nelson informed the company that her agency “has never reviewed or provided an import permit for Atlantic salmon originating from AquaBounty.” In the letter, Nelson said the company’s lease applications lacked sufficient information about AquaBounty Canada and whether it could meet Maine state regulations governing the import of live marine organisms. Under state law, DMR can ban the import of marine organisms that “if introduced to coastal waters could endanger indigenous marine life or its environment.”

Last week, when queried about the applications’ status, American Aquafarms’ project Manager Tom Brennan told The American that the company had a backup plan to source its juvenile salmon from the the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center in Franklin. He said the center’s hatchery supplies Cooke Aquaculture, which has multiple salmon farms in Maine.

When asked about American Aquafarms’ purchase agreement to acquire East Coast Seafood Group’s shuttered Maine Fair Trade Lobster plant in Prospect Harbor, Brennan said the company was still intent on acquiring the complex.

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