Project plans for wastewater discharge were brought before the California Coastal Commission, which unanimously approved a coastal development permit, with special conditions, for wastewater discharge for the proposed project.
In its report detailing the decision, the Commission said that although it noted there is an increased risk of harmful effects such as eutrophication, hypoxia, and harmful algal blooms due to wastewater discharge, such an impact was considered an "unlikely" scenario.
According to a study conducted by the company, discharge from the facility would be rapidly diluted in coastal waters, the Commission said.
"The proposed discharge has the potential to adversely affect several coastal resources, including water quality and fisheries. However, a review of available information by Commission staff indicates that such effects would be unlikely," the report stated.
Nordic Aquafarms has received the approval subject to several conditions for environmental monitoring and reporting of its wastewater.
The company plans to build its RAS facility at a former industrial site on the Samoa peninsula in Humboldt County, Northern California. The site was previously occupied by a pulp mill which closed down in 2008.
The company had originally planned to cultivate salmon in California, just like its planned RAS facility in Belfast, Maine. However, earlier this year Nordic announced it was switching to yellowtail kingfish for its California project.
Brenda Chandler, CEO of Nordic Aquafarms USA (the American subsidiary of Nordic Aquafarms) said that the build-out of the California facility would remain a "phased project", but that the facility would "start smaller than what was projected for Atlantic salmon".
The company says that the farm will still use seawater to raise the fish, but would need less freshwater and energy.
“We see a great potential for yellowtail kingfish in the US and we are looking forward to bringing the knowledge from our Scandinavian farms to California. We have good biological results in Scandinavia, the market for this fantastic product is strong, and the property in Humboldt County is unique on the West Coast with its existing infrastructure," said Nordic Aquafarms CEO, Bernt Olav Røttingsnes, commenting on the change of strategy in May 2023.
"A yellowtail kingfish farm can be profitable at smaller scale, due to its higher prices and strong performance in RAS systems, enabling us to develop a smaller facility than planned for salmon, that can be expanded alongside the growing market," he said.
“The US West Coast is the largest market for yellowtail kingfish outside of Japan, and we are looking forward to introducing a locally produced product of high quality to this important market. Within 12 hours of trucking distance, we can serve fresh fish to more than 50 million potential customers,” added Chandler.
Nordic Aquafarms' land-based salmon project in Maine has hit several roadblocks over the last year, with the company most recently saying it had requested a stay of its permits for the Belfast project.
"While the Maine project is paused, Nordic Aquafarms remains fully committed and active in the permitting process with Humboldt County and the state of California, and we look forward to breaking ground," the company said at the time.
Nordic Aquafarms Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nordic Aquafarms Group in Norway, one of the leaders in the international land-based seafood segment. In the United States, the company intends to develop two of the country's largest land-based seafood projects, one on each coast: in Belfast, Maine, and another in the Humboldt County town of Samoa, California. With offices in both locations, their U.S. headquarters are in Portland, Maine.