Ohad Maiman of Kingfish Zeeland said in a phone interview last week that company officials believe they have found two viable sites on the Maine coast after reviewing 22. But he does not want to identify those communities yet in hopes of avoiding the same kind of response that Nordic, a Norwegian-based company that is working to build a $500 million facility, has grappled with since announcing its plans in January 2018.
“We are now starting to approach the local communities before we go public with it,” Maiman said. “It’s very critical for us to come into a community that wants us there. We’ve heard about Nordic.”
Otherwise, he feels good about the prospects for a Kingfish Zeeland aquaculture venture in Maine. In the Netherlands, the 4-year-old company operates on a commercial scale in Zeeland, the westernmost, least populated province. It can produce about 600 tons of Pacific yellowtail a year, which it sells throughout most of Europe.
High demand for the product means that the company has had to limit the amounts that customers can buy. It’s now starting its first expansion in the Netherlands.
The Maine project, if built, would cost around $111 million, could create as many as 100 jobs and would produce 6,000 tons of fish annually to start. If all went well, it could eventually expand production to 15,000 tons, Maiman said.
Last June, the Zeeland facility became the world’s first recirculating aquaculture system, or RAS, fish farm to be awarded a Best Aquaculture Practices certification from the Global Aquaculture Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocacy, education and leadership in responsible aquaculture. Kingfish Zeeland was also the first land-based yellowtail fish farm to be certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, an independent, international nonprofit organization.
Kingfish Zeeland has keen interest in branching out to the United States, and the two possible sites in Maine fit the required technical parameters, which include at least 30 acres on a plot with direct access to seawater.
“Everything else is secondary,” he said, but added a caution. “It comes down to the acceptance of the community.”
‘The big red flag’
The world of land-based fish farming is a small one, and Maiman and others who work in it are familiar with Nordic Aquafarms’ experience in Belfast. The Norwegian company is still in the process of applying for its permits, as opponents have worked to slow it down through the regulatory agencies and in the court of public opinion. And that is not what developers, or investors, want to see, Maiman said.