Nordic Aquafarms loses court case over Maine salmon farm

Belfast, Maine, the proposed location of Aquafarm's salmon facility. Photo: Adobe Stock.
Belfast, Maine, the proposed location of Aquafarm's salmon facility. Photo: Adobe Stock.

Nordic Aquafarms suffered a major legal set-back this week over its plans to develop a land-based salmon farm in Belfast, Maine. Owing to an ongoing land dispute, construction has not yet begun on the 56-acre site, which was planned to host a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) as well as hatcheries and fish processing facilities.

Nordic Aquafarm's total capital investment for the project was last year estimated to be between $450 million and $500 million. A similar project is underway in California, where the company hopes to build a $650 million land-based fish farm on the Samoa Peninsula. With facilities on both sides of the USA, the goal is to deliver salmon to major populations on the East and West coasts.

The disputed land is an intertidal mudflat where the aquafarm's intake and outflow pipes were planned to be installed. Landowners and conservation groups originally filed a lawsuit in 2019 to stop Nordic Aquafarms from developing the intertidal zone, but the project obtained the necessary permits from state, local and federal agencies in 2021. However, Maine's Supreme Court has now rejected that earlier decision.

The company, founded by US-Norwegian dual citizen Erik Heim and his partner Marianne Naess, underwent a change in management a few months ago. Heim and Naess left to set up a separate aquaculture venture, Katahdin Salmon, while new interim Nordic Aquafarms CEO Brenda Chandler took over the reins in July 2022. 

"This decision today by the law court is disappointing and we are evaluating all options, not least of which is the eminent domain action already taken by the City," said Chandler in a statement.

The eminent domain case may mean the City of Belfast could convert the intertidal mudflats for public use. Plans agreed with Nordic Aquafarms include Belfast's Parks & Recreation having public access to the water for community use.

About Nordic Aquafarms

Nordic Aquafarms Inc is a 100% subsidiary of Nordic Aquafarms Group in Norway, one of the leaders in the international land-based seafood segment with production in Europe. Using the cold, clean sea waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Nordic Aquafarms brings its world class RAS technology to land-based salmon farming in the United States. The company's US headquarters is located in Portland, Maine with field offices in Belfast, Maine and Humboldt, California. Brenda Chandler is the Interim CEO and CFO.

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