Boats moored in Jonesport, Maine, U.S. Photo: Adobe Stock.
Boats moored in Jonesport, Maine, U.S. Photo: Adobe Stock.

Activists file court appeal against Kingfish Maine project

The activist group Protect Downeast has appealed the decision of the City of Jonesport to approve the project of The Kingfish Company's U.S. subsidiary.

Comprised of "lobstermen and women, marine harvesters, businesspeople, and concerned environmentalists", Protect Downeast describes itself as a group that "works to ensure the health and well-being of this special area of the Maine coast". The organization, known for its fight against several aquaculture projects in the area, announced Monday a court appeal against Jonesport Planning Board's decision to allow the Kingfish Maine RAS farm project to move forward on an industrial scale.

According to this appeal, in granting the permit to The Kingfish Company's U.S. subsidiary, the Board erred as a matter of law by misinterpreting the Jonesport Land Use Code to find that "functionally water-dependent uses" supersede the Land Use Code's prohibition of "commercial structures" and "industrial structures".

The state failed Jonesport's people

One of Protect Downeast's legal representatives in the appeal, attorney Beth Boepple from Murray Plumb and Murray, said that "the good people of Jonesport sought guidance from the state on this project but at every turn, the state failed them". According to her, the state promoted this project which will have a detrimental effect on the coastal waters that provide income for multiple marine harvesters.

"Agencies of the state are pushing hard for industrial scale aquaculture without doing a thorough assessment of the impact it will have on existing and traditional marine related businesses. It could not have been clearer, with every decision the state made, that this project was going forward at any cost", she continued.

"Poor guidance from the state"

In her statements, the attorney also asserted that the state acknowledged the water would be degraded, but then relied on a flawed study that the social and economic benefits outweighed the environmental damage in this coastal community. In addition, Protect Downeast cites the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) own determination of the negative effect the Kingfish Maine's industrial facility discharge will have on Chandler Bay. "Including an increase in nitrogen which degrades eelgrass, a critical habitat for marine life", they pointed out. 

"The Jonesport Planning Board had poor guidance from the state", the release insists. "The Board also erred as a matter of law by misinterpreting the water quality standard in its Shoreland Zoning Ordinance. The state found that Kingfish would degrade the water quality of Chandler Bay. That finding alone would have justified the Board, denying approval for the Kingfish facility", adds Attorney Boepple.

All permits in place for Kingfish Maine

"At the end of the day, the Jonesport Planning Board had stricter guidelines than the state and it chose to go with a lesser restrictive standard which was an error of law", ends Protect Downeast's release. However, it is worth remembering that Kingfish Maine has had all permits in place, not only from local and state agencies but also from federal agencies, since December.

On previous occasions, the company has been not concerned by this activist group's announcement of actions. Last March, it obtained approval for its building permit, in addition to a loan insurance application in preparation for its yellowtail kingfish project. Moreover, Kingfish Maine which is currently operating at the University of Maine's Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR) in Franklin, just successfully celebrated its first harvest.

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