A farmed Atlantic salmon. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.


Mikael Roenes is CEO of American Aquafarms.

Maine is setting the stage with its response to climate change, the need for greater sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Aquaculture plays an important role in all three.

The United States imports about 90 percent of the fish eaten in the country. Those imports ship consumer dollars out of the country, while also having a direct impact on the environment from the transportation required to deliver the food.

With wild fisheries under pressure from overfishing and warming oceans, aquaculture provides an opportunity to produce food closer to the people who will eat it and in a controlled and sustainable way.

That’s why American Aquafarms has proposed a new aquaculture facility along the working waterfront in Gouldsboro with pens located in Frenchman Bay.

We believe that this project will produce salmon safely and sustainably, while helping to fight climate change and creating good jobs for Maine people.

Aquaculture means farming in water. And just like in traditional farming, those who make their living in this industry need to have a vested interest in maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment and producing a high-quality product. At my company, American Aquafarms, we’ve gone a step further, and are investing in the eco-friendly technology that will set a new standard in the United States.

Our closed-pen, ocean-based system addresses major challenges in the traditional aquaculture industry by controlling waste and preventing escapes. It eliminates the threat of sea lice and reduces the need for harmful chemicals. Perhaps most importantly, it raises fish in their natural habitat — the ocean.

Closed pens provide a controlled growing environment for our fish, and no antibiotics are needed to raise fish in these pens. Through vaccination, the fish can be raised without the need for medicines and harmful chemicals. Our state-of-the-art treatment removes particulates and uses custom technology to treat the remaining waste prior to discharge.

When determining where to site this project, we wanted a location with the necessary deep water and a heritage of fishing — a place where there is an understanding of the critical nature of sustainable practices and a clear process to ensure that high standards are not just met, but exceeded.

Maine’s fishing traditions, the value Mainers place on natural resources and the state’s commitment to responsible aquaculture projects set it apart.

American Aquafarms also wanted a place with the workforce to fill the year-round, high-quality jobs we’re creating.

For these reasons and more, we believe Maine is the ideal location.

Earlier this month, we filed a draft lease application with the Department of Marine Resources for two 60-acre sites in Frenchman Bay. The applications are part of Maine’s rigorous, multi-step process for approving new aquaculture projects. This science-based, decision-making process strengthens Maine’s maritime industry, while also allowing it to diversify.

In addition to the Department of Marine Resources, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Army Corps of Engineers will also put our proposal through vigorous review, ensuring that we can follow Maine’s strict regulations and protect that state’s environment while providing opportunity for public involvement in the process.

American Aquafarms is confident that our project will meet these exacting standards.

We believe our plans and our project will complement Maine’s maritime heritage, while augmenting production of high-quality, sustainable seafood. Ultimately, we plan on establishing a hatchery, fish farm facilities and a state-of-the art processing plant.

In fact, we’ve already entered into an agreement to purchase the Maine Fair Trade Lobster facility in Gouldsboro and are planning on making a substantial investment to redevelop the 11-acre site, pending regulatory approval of our plans.

The facility and its wharf would become the base from which our employees would tend to the Frenchman Bay pens. The harvested fish would be processed on site and the existing warehouse would be converted into a hatchery. This new facility will result in hundreds of high-quality jobs and spur economic development far beyond its location.

We know that there are questions about our project. We are committed to listening, to making improvements and meeting the high standards that Maine demands.

As we navigate the well-designed process set forth by the Department of Marine Resources for aquaculture, we look forward to a transparent and science-based discussion. With this project, we envision a partnership that will result in a healthier, sustainable environment for us all — and an investment in new jobs to produce food closer to the people who need it.