New bill threatens land-based aquaculture in Maine, says Kingfish

The proposed legislation targets recirculating aquaculture systems, and has been heavily criticised by land-based fish farming company Kingfish Maine.


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A controversial new bill has been presented to Maine State Legislature this month, seeking to restrict the activities of land-based aquaculture ventures in the State.

The bill, directed to Maine’s Department of Marine Resources, focuses on recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) in land-based aquaculture, seeking to limit potential pollution and carbon emissions, as well as restrict feed ingredients and guard against “adverse impacts” on native fisheries and seafood production.

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Specifically, the bill aims “to ensure that new industrial recirculating aquaculture operations do not contribute to the degradation of water quality or air quality or increase the State’s overall carbon emissions and that aquaculture feed sources do not include certain wild marine organisms, pollutants and contaminents.”

The bill also directs Maine’s Department of Marine Resources to “also ensure that industrial recirculating aquculture operations do not adversely impact native lobster, shellfish, seaweed or finfish operations.”

The move has provoked unease among aqaculture companies oeprating in Maine. Kingfish Maine, a subsidiary of the Dutch Kingfish Company, has been particularly outspoken in its critcism of the bill. The company plans to open a yellowtail kingfish land-based farm in Jonesport, Maine. However, the aquaculture company’s plans have been contested at every stage by local campaigners.

Kingfish Maine responds to the bill

In a statement sent to WeAreAquaculture, Kingfish Maine’s head of operations Meagan Sorby said that the company has already complied with all Maine and US regulations.

“It’s important to note that Kingfish Maine has received all local, state and federal permits for its Jonesport project,” she said.

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“The Maine Department of Environmental Protection sets extremely rigorous standards for all aquaculture operations – standards which must be met through the lengthy permitting process. This bill is an attempted usurpation of authority already granted to DEP,” said Sorby. “Opponents of aquaculture are attempting to take authority away from regulatory agencies that have granted permits for projects that have met all permitting criteria and opponents haven’t gotten their way through the spread of misinformation.”

“This bill, as currently drafted, could have major ramifications on all of Maine’s aquaculture industry. Portions of this bill not only target finfish projects, but all land-based aquaculture operations, including shellfish,” Sorby added.

Sorby’s husband Tom Sorby, an aquaculture consultant who also works for Kingfish, wrote a post in LinkedIn calling the bill “an attack on food security and sustainable protein production for the United States”, and wrote that if approved, the legislation would “essentially stop any land based aquaculture in Maine.”

The news follows the legal woes of another land-based aquaculture venture in the State of Maine, as Nordic Aquafarms finally lost its legal battle to establish an RAS-based salmon farm in Belfast, Maine.

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