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A proposal to build a 120-acre Atlantic salmon farm in Frenchman Bay took another blow last week when American Aquafarms’ seafood processing facility in Gouldsboro went on the auction block.
The Norwegian firm bought the former Maine Fair Trade Lobster facility, which includes a 100,000-square-foot industrial complex on 94 acres, a year ago, in the midst of controversy around its proposal to lease two 60-acre sites between Bar Harbor and Schoodic Peninsula, install a system of “closed pens” and eventually produce 66 million pounds of salmon annually.
The idea was to install the operations’ hatchery and processing facility in at the Gouldsboro site.
But the site, at 200-210 Main St. and including 1,250 feet of oceanfront, was listed last week by Keenan Auction Co. in Portland as a foreclosure sale.
The action is scheduled for June 15 at 11 a.m. at the site’s main complex. A preview is scheduled for June 1 from 10 a.m. to noon.
The real estate consists of five individual parcels to be sold as an entirety. The primary parcel was home to a former lobster and fish processing facility.
The majority of the processing equipment has been removed from the facility with several holding tanks still in place. Adjacent to the industrial building site are three, four-room employee housing units with a fourth building housing a common living, dining and kitchen area, and locker room-type bath area.
Amenities at the main complex include loading docks, deep-water frontage, freshwater easements, paved parking and a 75-foot pier.
Terms of the auction include a $50,000 deposit.
According to a statement sent by Washington, D.C., media and public relations consultancy Stove Boat, American Aquafarms CEO Keith Decker “was granted an interest in certain property owned by American Aquafarms as collateral for a loan he had made to the company … The property includes Gouldsboro’s Maine Fair Trade Lobster facility, which American Aquafarms had acquired from East Coast Seafood Group.”
The statement continued, “At this time, Mr. Decker is taking action to liquidate his interest in that collateral to provide the funds owed.”
Decker joined American Aquafarms as CEO in October 2021, shortly after the company announced plans to develop a closed net-pen salmon aquaculture facility in Frenchmans Bay. Decker is a 30-year seafood industry professional who served as CEO of Blue Harvest Fisheries from 2018 until 2021, and previously served as the CEO of High Liner Foods from 2015 to 2017.
The American Aquafarms proposal was troubled from the start.
“The project was met with overwhelming opposition from diverse members of the community including lobstermen, shorefront homeowners, and the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce,” the statement acknowledged.
In a special election, held Nov. 15, 2021, Gouldsboro voters approved a six-month moratorium against all large-scale fin-fish farms in the area.
On April 19, 2021, the Maine Department of Marine Resources terminated American Aquafarms' lease application to operate the facility. In July 2022 the company dropped its lawsuit challenging the Department of Marine Resources' rejection of its application.
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