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July 21, 2022

Jonesport vote allows Kingfish Maine project to head to planning board

aerial rendering of building and woods COURTESY / KINGFISH MAINE Seen here is a rendering of Kingfish Maine’s proposed land-based aquaculture facility in Jonesport.

A Dutch firm seeking to establish a land-based aquaculture operation in Jonesport won a victory Wednesday when voters rejected a proposed moratorium on such new businesses.

“When we chose the Jonesport site, we spent significant time getting to know the community and making certain we were welcome,” Ohad Maiman, CEO of the Kingfish Co., said in a news release. “This vote confirms that we have made the right choice.”

The moratorium would have imposed a 180-day prohibition, extendable by successive 180-day periods, on aquaculture development and processing applications within the town.

According to the proposed ordinance, the Kingfish development might harm Jonesport's natural environment, interfere with traditional uses of coastal waters, and pose health threats to residents. The proposal said aquaculture development could become a trend and that the town needed time to gather information on its potential effects, while reviewing current ordinances related to development.

The vote in a town referendum was 201-91 against the proposal. 

“We have said from the beginning we want to be in a town that will welcome us as a collaborating business partner, one that will provide jobs and economic benefits to the community,” said Megan Sorby, Kingfish Maine’s operations manager. “We are thrilled to see the confidence of this town in their own town government and in the potential of this project in Jonesport.”

Also this week, the Jonesport Planning Board accepted Kingfish Maine’s building application and continued to a review of application materials. Another Planning Board review meeting is set for Aug. 2. 

The Planning Board application is the last of the approvals needed for the Jonesport project. Kingfish Maine has received all Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits for the proposed recirculating aquaculture system facility. It's projected to produce 6,000 to 8,000 metric tons of yellowtail annually upon completion.

Sorby told Mainebiz the proposal is to build a 500,000-square-foot facility and hire 70 to 100 people through a phased build-out.

The company has a design team in place that’s partially in-house and is also working with Ramboll, a Danish consulting engineering group. The goal is to break ground next spring and to have the first phase operational within 18 months after that. 

Kingfish Maine is owned by the Kingfish Co., which operates a land-based system in the Netherlands, where over 110 people are employed. The company is the largest yellowtail kingfish producer in the European Union.

The company first identified Jonesport as its preferred U.S. location in 2019. Last November, the company finalized the purchase of a 94-acre site, for $1.25 million, to build its $110 million land-based aquaculture facility. The site is at 9 Dun Garvin Road, near Chandler Bay on Route 187, roughly 5 miles from the center of town. Part of the site consists of blueberry fields.

The facility will serve as a U.S. hub to grow yellowtail kingfish, a species well known in Italian and Asian cuisines, for retailers and food service operations.

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