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Environment and Outdoors

State kills American Aquafarms’ controversial salmon farm permit

american aquafarms.JPG
Courtesy of American Aquafarms
via the Bangor Daily News
An artistic rendering, provided by American Aquafarms, shows what a salmon processing site in the Gouldsboro village of Prospect Harbor might look like if it is redeveloped from its current use as a plant for cooking and packaging lobster.

Maine's Department of Marine Resources is terminating the application for a controversial salmon farm proposed for Frenchman Bay, in the shadow of Acadia National Park.

Two years ago a group of Norwegian investors proposed raising 66 million pounds of salmon a year in enclosed, floating net pens at two sites on the bay. The $300 million American Aquafarms project quickly drew vocal opposition from diverse stakeholders; a local seaweed farmer, lobstermen, shorefront homeowners, the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

"We denied their egg source. And without an approved egg source there's no reason to move forward with the application," says Patrick Keliher, Maine's Commissioner of Marine Resources. He says American Aquafarms failed to provide proper documentation about the genetics and disease-resistance of salmon eggs it said it would buy from a Newfoundland hatchery that specializes in transgenic stock.

"The issue of escapement is a big issue, because if you have a fish that is not of the same genetic makeup if you will as the sources of wild fish that we have. You potentially dilute and weaken the gene pool of wild Atlantic salmon. So the genetics is really a key component here," Keliher says.

American Aquafarms spokesman Thomas Brennan says the company put the project on hold last fall while it waited for DMR to complete its review of the egg-sourcing issue.

"The owners are just re-evaluating what al this means," he said.

The company does still have the right to file a new application.