The other sign is different. Its fish is a cheerful orange hue and floats over graceful blue waves, and is emblazoned with the words, “Good for Belfast, Good for Maine,” and “The Fish Are Okay.”
That is the name of another grassroots group, one that recently formed to support aquaculture in Maine and the idea of the fish farm. Organizers of The Fish Are Okay said that they also want to provide a different perspective to the community than the one shared by Smart Growth and Upstream Watch, a second organization that has formed to oppose the project.
Until recently, the battle for public opinion about the fish farm has seemed dominated by opponents, some of whom have not been afraid to speak up at informational meetings, initiate a lawsuit against the city or make legal challenges to Nordic’s permit applications. Lately, though, midcoast residents who feel positively about the project have begun to make their voices heard.
“A lot of us who weren’t so dead-set against it started talking to each other,” Anne Saggese, an organizing member of The Fish Are Okay, said recently. “We realized that there was so much negativity out there that people weren’t paying attention. So we started pushing back a little bit.”
They haven’t stopped. In just more than a month, the group’s Facebook page has grown to nearly 260 people who like it, and members have distributed 100 lawn signs, with a waiting list started for those who want the next batch. They have held meetings, are planning events and have helped to get signatures for a petition in favor of Nordic that a local businessman is going to run as an ad in the Republican Journal, a weekly newspaper.
“What we aim to do is open conversations within the community to talk about those issues that are controversial. Not just Nordic, but all this aquaculture boom that Maine seems to be going through,” Saggese said. “We want to know the truth. If it turns out that this is as safe as we’re told it is, this is a really great opportunity for Belfast.”
‘Really an anomaly’
Ethan Hughes, a Belfast resident who is part of Smart Growth, said recently that he doesn’t agree that the salmon farm is a good opportunity for Belfast or, perhaps, anywhere. He doesn’t think that growing salmon on land will do anything to help world hunger or the man-made environmental disaster he believes is unfolding all around us.
“If we really wanted to help each other, is there a better use of $500 million?” he asked. “Once school’s out, kids in this county don’t know where their next meal is coming from. We’re producing more food, and throwing it out, and the food being thrown away is shipped from Chile and China. That’s where I think the bigger conversations are. We actually have enough food in America to feed everyone, but we’re throwing half of it out.”