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Maine DEP abandons review of controversial Frenchman Bay salmon farm

American Aquafarms

A second state agency is halting its review of a controversial floating-pen salmon farm proposed for Frenchman Bay, near Acadia National Park.

On Wednesday, the Department of Marine Resources terminated its review of an application by American Aquafarms to lease 120 acres of the bay for its planned industrial-scale fish farm. The agency says the company, which is backed by Norwegian investors, failed to show that the salmon eggs it would use posed no risk of disease or genetic contamination for wild salmon stocks.

Now, the Department of Environmental Protection is ending its consideration of the company's proposal for discharging project waste to the bay. DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim wrote that the agency was returning that application to the company.

Project opponents say they're pleased by the decisions. But some, like Harry Sharpe, president of Frenchman Bay United, say the agencies' actions do not indicate that state laws adequately protect Maine waters from potentially damaging industrial-scale aquaculture.

"It's too bad that the project seems to potentially have been terminated on that technicality of the lack of eggs, rather than for the more substantive reason that the science suggests that this thing would be really bad news for Maine," he says.

The commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, Patrick Keliher, says the decision demonstrates that the agency is not a "rubber stamp" for the state's growing aquaculture sector, and that the state's rules and laws are protective of the ocean resource.

Company officials say they are reviewing their options.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.