Maine aquaculture restrictions signed into law

New Maine law restricts salmon aquaculture farms to a maximum stocking density of 30kg per cubic metre, after American Aquafarms controversy.
American Aquafarms' project of salmon processing site in the Gouldsboro village of Prospect Harbor, Maine. Image: American Aquafarms.
American Aquafarms' project of salmon processing site in the Gouldsboro village of Prospect Harbor, Maine. Image: American Aquafarms.

A new law restricting the stocking density of salmon aquaculture operations has been offically signed into the Maine legislature by Governor Janet Mills on 22 June.

The bill, L.D. 1951, An Act Regarding Marine Finfish Aquaculture, was sponsored by Senator Nicole Grohoski (Democrat, Hancock County) and co-sponsored by House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham (Republican, Winter Harbor) and Senate President Troy Jackson (Democrat, Aroostook). The bill was later amended by the State's marine resources committee.

The new legislation prohibits the state from granting leases for fish aquaculture farms if the proposed stocking density exceeds 30kg/m³.

Restrictions come in the wake of American Aquafarms controversy

The move to restrict aquaculture stocking density came in response to American Aquafarms' proposal to construct a "giant" salmon farm in Frenchman Bay in Maine. The proposal for a 30,000-tonnes-per-year capacity semi-closed containment salmon farm had previously sparked vigorous opposition from a variety of sources, including Maine lobstermen, the Acadia National Park and conservation organizations in the State.

Presenting the bill in May 2023, Grohoski reportedly said that American Aquafarms's proposed facility would produce a larger biomass of fish than all 24 of Maine's existing marine finfish farms combined. At the time of proposing the bill, she noted, no state regulations were in place to limit biomass or stocking density in Maine aquaculture operations.

"Massive marine finfish farms will have a significant impact on existing users such as lobstermen, and the controversy surrounding lease applications for large-scale projects is damaging to Maine's responsible aquaculture growers and shellfish farmers," Grohoski wrote in a "fact sheet" about the bill.

The new law is the latest in a series of debates and controversies over the development of the Maine aquaculture industry.

An earlier bill, LD 586, "An Act to Protect Maine Fisheries from the Effects of Industrial Recirculating Aquaculture Operations", was proposed to the Maine State Legislature in Feburary 2023, and referred to Maine's Marine Resources Committee, who unanimously voted it down on 23 March.

The proposed legislation aimed to eliminate potential pollution and carbon emissions from future land-based projects in the State, as well as restrict feed ingredients and guard against "adverse impacts" on native fisheries and seafood production.

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