A month after its appeal in court against Maine’s decision to reject its farm application, American Aquafarms (AAF) has decided to withdraw that lawsuit and give dialogue a chance. “We need to find solutions to this impasse”, Thomas Brennan, AAF’s Director of Project Development, has told to WeAreAquaculture. “In that regard, we need to have conversation with the DMR Agency, NOT conflict”, he remarked. Both the respondent, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR), and the intervenor, Frenchman Bay United (FBU) – the coalition that led the effort against the salmon far -, have stipulated the dismissal of the legal action, “with prejudice and without cost”.
American Aquafarms keeps on going
“Absolutely not”, that is how categorical Brennan is when asked if the withdrawal of the appeal means that AAF is abandoning the project. Recall that, when they filed the lawsuit, American Aquafarms was convinced that they met, and even exceeded, the requirements necessary to satisfy Maine’s DMR on the egg supply issue. “We hope for a fair and unbiased process”, they said at the time, stating that the four-month deadline the Department had given them to prove the validity of AquaBounty’s eggs was arbitrary and had no factual basis. Now, one month later, AAF’s Director of Project Development is conciliatory. “We are hoping to find solutions for the DMR’s concerns, then modify our application accordingly”, he says.
“We seek input from DMR”, he continues, “as far as we were concerned, based on what we understood of the DMR rules, we were following the right path. Clearly, the Department did not agree. We need to understand why so we can proceed productively”, Brennan says and, once again, he remarks: “For that, we need conversation, not conflict”. However, the fact that the stipulation of dismissal filed with the court yesterday was made “with prejudice” means that American Aquafarms cannot file the same claim again and if it wants to get a license for a similar project, it must start the permitting process from the beginning.
In spite of this, the company is hopeful that the dialogue with Maine’s Department of Marine Resources will bear fruit and that the project can be maintained in the area because, according to Brennan, “the conditions and attributes of this area are most suitable for this project in the many areas we surveyed”. Moreover, last May he was also convinced that “this project represents a significant investment and an important opportunity for Hancock County, the region and the State of Maine”.
Not everyone agrees
As we said at the beginning, as an opposing party in the appeal, along with the Maine Department of Marine Resources and against the opening of the farm, it was also included Frenchman Bay United (FBU). The coalition, which in its press release yesterday recalled that it was they who led “the effort against a massive industrial salmon farm in the waters next to Acadia National Park”, agreed to the dismissal of the lawsuit. “We have always believed that DMR made the right decision in refusing to accept the company’s lease applications and that this lawsuit had little merit. We again call on American Aquafarms to end any plans it may have to re-apply for permits for this or other destructive and highly polluting projects”, restated FBU Board President, Henry Sharpe.
“We hope that this is the end for American Aquafarms, but we remain vigilant and ready to challenge any subsequent applications they may file that would jeopardize Maine’s brand: clean water, thriving natural habitats, pristine wilderness, and a robust, owner-operated working waterfront”, Sharpe said. “We’ll also continue to push science-based policies for legislative and regulatory change that champion the same virtues, ones that prevent the industrialization of our iconic coastline”.
In response, in conversation with WeAreAquaculture, American Aquafarms’ Director of Project Development, reminds us that “a special interest group like this does not represent the Laws of the State of Maine or the Regulatory Framework administered by the DMR”. He goes further: “Frenchman Bay historically teamed with wild ground fish stocks, salmon, haddock, cod, etc. Those stocks are long gone. Victim of over fishing”, he says. “Our closed pen technology aims to remove solid wastes to land, for use in energy production and/or fertilizer. There will be nutrient contribution in the discharge from the pens but remember, fish pee. Fish live in the sea. The discharge water is the same water the fish we will raise are living in. We would not nor would it make any sense to have them live in polluted”. And in closing, Thomas Brennan adds: “This rhetoric is silly”.
About American Aquafarms
Funded by Blue Future, a group of aquaculture investors based in Norway, American Aquafarms is a Maine corporation “that hopes to build a hatchery, fish farm and state-of-the-art processing plant in Hancock County, Maine”. With a focus on using technology to increase sustainability and reduce the environmental footprint of growing and processing operations and, for that, its team includes experienced professionals and aquaculture experts with worldwide experience. If its permit application is approved, the company expects to establish its marine farm on a small parcel off Gouldsboro in Frenchman Bay, and its hatchery and processing facilities in Prospect Harbor, “at the heritage Stinson Canning factory, a legacy working waterfront facility that has been in operation at that site for over a hundred years”.