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March 10, 2021

American Aquafarms seeks approval for ocean-based salmon pens

COURTESY / AMERICAN AQUAFARMS This rendering shows the proposed American Aquafarms salmon hatchery, farming facilities and processing plant in Gouldsboro. A Portland fishery group opposes the plan.

American Aquafarms, an aquaculture start-up headquartered in Portland, has filed two draft lease applications with the Department of Marine Resources to begin development of closed-pen, ocean-based salmon operation in Downeast Maine.

The two proposed sites would be in Frenchman Bay, off the town of Gouldsboro to the east and Bar Harbor to the west.

Each site would be 60.3 acres. The pens at each site would take up about 6.6 acres. 

Courtesy / American Aquafarms, Ransom Consulting Engineers and Scientists
The rectangle at center represents one of American Aquafarms’ proposed lease sites in the water between Bar Harbor and Gouldsboro. A mooring system, to hold the pens in place, consists of two grid systems, each with two rows of four cages. All together, the mooring grid contains 15 pens and a waste barge.

The company plans to establish a hatchery, fish farm facilities and a state-of-the art processing plant that’s expected to result in hundreds of jobs in coastal Maine.

“Maine is the ideal location for this project,” American Aquafarms CEO Mikael Roenes said in a news release. “By leveraging the state’s deep water assets with next generation eco-friendly technology to sustainably produce food close to its market, we have the opportunity to set a new standard in the United States. Additionally, we are confident that Maine has the workforce we need to fill the year-round, good-paying jobs we’re creating.”

Screenshot / American Aquafarms
American Aquafarms Vice President Eirik Jors, left, and founder and CEO Mikael Rones.

American Aquafarms will use emergent technology for a closed-pen system that’s expected to address major challenges in the traditional aquaculture industry by controlling waste and preventing escapes. 

The company has also entered into an agreement to purchase the Maine Fair Trade Lobster facility in Gouldsboro, with plans to redevelop the 11-acre site into a hatchery and processing facility. Terms of that deal were not disclosed.

American Aquafarms was launched in Portland in 2019 by Mikael Rones, CEO of Global AS, based in Trondheim, Norway.

American Aquafarms plans to build a salmon hatchery as well as farming and processing facilities on the site. The site would use closed deep-water pens for raising fish.

The company is privately funded and has so far not been seeking external capital, according to its website.

However, the company has been contacted by several investors interested in the project.

Screenshot / American Aquafarms
Seen here is a rendering of the closed-pen system.

The draft lease applications are part of the state’s multi-step  process for approving new aquaculture projects. DMR has 30 days to determine if the application meets its standard to proceed to a scoping session. After the scoping session, the state moves to a full application review, site visit and report, and public hearing before making a final determination. 

In January, Portland-based Protect Maine’s Fishing Heritage Foundation expressed concerns about the proposed site and size of the salmon farm. 

The group called the project “industrialized aquaculture” and said it had heard from multiple lobstermen concerned about losing bottom in the area as well as the potential for environmental damage.

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March 11, 2021

The reason the draft application is not public yet is because the DMR first has to review it for completeness. Then it can be found on
After which American Aquafarms will schedule a community conversation called a scoping session.

March 10, 2021

There are lots of people in Hancock County who want to see this application, will the company release the whole thing, so we know what they are talking about? How much water treatment will they do?

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