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October 26, 2018

Whole Oceans' founder steps down, new president named

Courtesy / Whole Oceans
Courtesy / Whole Oceans
Whole Oceans founder Rob Piasio has stepped down from his role as CEO, and the company has named its chief operating officer, Jason Mitchell, as president.

A land-based salmon farming operation planned for Bucksport has a new leader.

Whole Oceans founder Rob Piasio has stepped down from his role as CEO, and the company has named its chief operating officer, Jason Mitchell, as president.

According to a company news release, Mitchell "assumes a primary operating role from former CEO Rob Piasio, who will continue to serve on the company's board of managers."

Mitchell has more than 15 years of experience in shipbuilding operations management. He previously held a variety of positions at General Dynamics, most recently as director of production at Bath Iron Works. He was founder and co-owner of San Diego-based Helms Brewing Co., which he sold in 2017. Along with his wife Amanda, Mitchell co-owns Delany Arts in Yarmouth.

According to the release, the company's development of a land-based salmon farm in Bucksport is in the permitting phase. The company has been in dialogue with local regulators for two years.

Whole Oceans has filed a waste discharge permit with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP also will review site development and general site construction permit proposals.

Other applications for permits are pending or will be filed with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The company anticipates construction to begin next year.

In the release, Mitchell said, "A project of this scale takes time, but we are making great progress."

Mitchell joined Whole Oceans in May.

Whole Oceans is a Portland-based company planning to build initially a $75 million land-based aquafarm to raise Atlantic salmon. When complete, Phase 1 of the project is expected to create 50 jobs and produce 5,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon per year. The company plans over the next 15 years to produce as much as 20,000 metric tons per year, with an overall investment of more than $250 million in a phased, multi-year plan.

In Belfast, Nordic Aquafarms Inc., based in Norway, is also working through the permitting process for a land-based Atlantic salmon farm.

In October, leaders from both companies told Mainebiz that their arrivals at the same time is coincidental, but both see the same advantages in Maine — things like pristine seawater, abundant groundwater, coastal access, and existing maritime research, academic and workforce development resources. Both plan to deploy cutting-edge technology at a scale never seen before in the land-based fish farming sector.

"We believe that, with Whole Oceans and Nordic Aquafarms, Maine can lead the United States with land-based aquaculture," Ben Willauer, Whole Oceans' chief development officer, told Mainebiz.

Whole Oceans is planning to develop its operation at the former Verso paper mill site in Bucksport.

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