Maine aquaculture bill voted down by lawmakers

The bill, which called for stricter regulations in Maine on land-based aquaculture, was rejected by the state's Marine Resources Committee.
Aerial view of Kingfish Maine's proposed aquaculture facility. Photo: Kingfish Maine / The Kingfish Company.
Aerial view of Kingfish Maine's proposed aquaculture facility. Photo: Kingfish Maine / The Kingfish Company.

Maine's land-based aquaculture community breathed a collective sigh of relief last week, as a bill proposing to introduce stringent regulations for the sector was rejected by the state's legislature.

The bill, LD 586, "An Act to Protect Maine Fisheries from the Effects of Industrial Recirculating Aquaculture Operations", focused on land-based aquaculture. 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.

The bill 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.

Bill's proposals "unrealistic"

The bill's requirements for zero emissions and a guarantee that feed would contain no wild marine-derived ingredients were widely criticised as "unrealistic" by the aquaculture sector. Some feared that if approved, the bill would "essentially stop any land based aquaculture in Maine."

The Maine Department for Marine Resources testified in opposition to the bill earlier in March, noting that the State already has rigorous procedures in place for aquaculture regulation and decision-making.

Representatives from Cooke Aquaculture USA, feed manufacturer Skretting and shellfish producer Atlantic Aqua Farms USA also testified in opposition to the bill.

The news will come as a relief to Kingfish Maine, who earlier this month released a statement criticising the bill and warning that if passed, it would block all land-based aquaculture in Maine. Kingfish Maine's $110 million yellowtail kingfish land-based farm in Jonesport has recently been granted permission to start building.

Not all aquaculture ventures have been so fortunate, however. Nordic Aquafarms' proposal for a $500 million land-based facility in Belfast has met with continued opposition. The company suffered a further setback last month, as opponents filed an additional lawsuit to block construction on the planned site.

The latest land-based venture in the State is Katahdin Salmon in Millinocket, founded by former Nordic Aquafarms executives Marianne Naess and Erik Heim. In a recent interview with WeAreAquaculture, Naess said that she believed going smaller is key to success for aquaculture ventures in Maine. Katahdin Salmon's plan is to develop a land-based RAS farm to produce 5000 metric tons in phase one, with an expansion to 10,000 metric tons in phase two of the buildout.

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