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Jonesport residents reject aquaculture moratorium

beal island bridge.JPG
Bill Trotter
Wire lobster traps sit stacked on a pier in Beals, Maine, as vehicles cross the Beals Island Bridge between Beals and Jonesport on Nov. 30, 2018. Linked by the bridge, which is being replaced with a new $10.5 million span, the lobster industry and a shared high school, residents of the two towns hope their rural fishing community will benefit from a proposed $110 million land-based aquaculture fish farm in Jonesport.

Jonesport residents rejected a proposed moratorium on large aquaculture projects Wednesday night, potentially clearing the way for a Dutch company to set up a land-based yellowtail fish farm there.

The vote was 201- 91 against a moratorium that would have blocked Kingfish Maine from building a 15-to-20 acre aquaculture facility in Jonesport.

Several other Downeast communities, including Addison, Machiasport and Winter Harbor, have passed aquaculture moratoriums.

"We are grateful for the overwhelming local support at the town vote," said Ohad Maiman, CEO of the Kingfish Company, which owns Kingfish Maine. "When we chose the Jonesport site, we spent significant time getting to know the community and making certain we were welcome. This vote confirms that that we have made the right choice."

Billy Milliken, the chairman of the Jonesport Board of Selectmen, said the topic generated heated debate among town residents and some opposition groups, but now the issue is settled.

"Not all of the town of Jonesport was convinced, but a huge majority, a super majority of the people in the town of Jonesport support this," he said. "They feel good with the science. They feel good that this business is consistent with who we are, with what made us."

Kingfish Maine said it has received all the necessary permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and that it only needs approval from the Jonesport planning board before it can break ground on its recirculating aquaculture system. The facility is expected to produce anywhere from six to eight-thousand metric tons of yellowtail a year once its complete, the company said.

The Jonesport planning board will meet next month to consider the Kingfish application. Milliken said he expects the board will give the application a fair review within the next 30 days or so.