Kingfish Zeeland's land-based yellowtail farm in the Netherlands, pictured above, produces 600 tons of fish a year. The company plans to build a larger, $110 million land-based yellowtail fish farm in Jonesport, Maine. Credit: Courtesy of Kingfish Zeeland

A Dutch company planning to build a $110 million fish farm in Jonesport has secured a key state permit as it moves ahead with plans for the land-based aquaculture operation.

Kingfish Maine, which hopes to build the facility on a 94-acre property on Dun Garvan Road, recently received its wastewater discharge permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The permit greenlights the treatment system that the company will use on the water prior to discharging it back into the Chandler Bay. Its parent company, Kingfish Zeeland, uses the same system at its land-based, recirculating aquaculture system in Kats, Netherlands, which opened in 2018 and produces approximately 500 metric tons or more than 1 million pounds of yellowtail each year.

The wastewater permit follows another state approval Kingfish received last September from the Bureau of Parks and Lands for the configuration of pipes it plans to use to draw water from and discharge water into Chandler Bay.

Kingfish officials have held meetings with area lobster fishermen to discuss the project and have said repeatedly that the water will be free of pollutants and will match the ambient temperature of the bay, so as not to alter the habitat for lobster there.

“For two years, we’ve worked very closely with the town of Jonesport and those who use Chandler Bay to address their questions,” Megan Sorby, the company’s Maine operations manager, said Monday. “This is a major milestone for Kingfish Maine and we look forward to our continued work with the community.”

The plant’s water system would include four pipes — two discharge pipes and two intake pipes — that extend into Chandler Bay. The intake pipes will extend roughly a quarter mile into the bay, or about half as far as the discharge pipes. A diffuser will be placed at the end of the discharge pipes to help the filtered and cooled water dissipate into Chandler Bay.

Kingfish Maine plans to grow between 6,000 and 8,000 metric tons, or around 13 million pounds, of yellowtail at the Jonesport site each year. Yellowtail, or seriola lalandi, often is identified as hamachi on sushi menus and has proven to be one of the most viable species, both commercially and biologically, for land-based aquaculture operations.

The planned Jonesport fish farm is one of four large-scale fish farms proposed along Maine’s eastern coast but is the only one of the four that would cultivate yellowtail, rather than salmon. Nordic Aquafarms has plans to build a $500 million land-based salmon farm in Belfast, where it would produce nearly 73 million pounds of salmon each year, while Whole Oceans is looking to develop a $180 million land-based salmon farm at the former Verso Paper mill site in Bucksport, where it hopes eventually to produce 44 million pounds annually.

The Whole Oceans project has received all of its needed permits, while the Nordic Aquaculture project is still waiting on one from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Sorby said Kingfish still needs two additional permits from the Department of Environmental Protection, with some input from the Army Corps, and then will submit construction plans for the 94-acre parcel to Jonesport’s planning board. Kingfish hopes to have all its permits and to begin construction either near the end of this year or in early 2022, she said.

Each of the three land-based aquaculture firms has said it would create roughly 55 to 75 jobs in their initial phases of operation, but likely would expand within a few years of starting up.

The fourth firm, American Aquafarms, is looking to grow salmon in floating pens in Frenchman Bay and then to process that salmon at the Maine Fair Trade Lobster plant in Gouldsboro, which American Aquafarms would purchase and repurpose if it gets state approval for the salmon grow site in Frenchman Bay. American Aquafarms has projected that it likely would spend $300 million to get its operations in the bay and on land up and running, and then would produce 66 million pounds of salmon each year.

The state Department of Marine Resources is reviewing American Aquafarms’ submerged lands lease application, which the company submitted last month.

All four proposals have varying degrees of local support, but the ones that would be in Belfast and Frenchman Bay also face staunch opposition.

Opponents in Belfast have cited mainly environmental concerns, though project supporters there say the environmental impacts would be minimal. Whether Nordic Aquafarms has the right-of-way across a mudflat where it seeks to bury its intake and discharge pipes is the subject of a lawsuit pending in Waldo County Superior Court.

Opponents in the towns that ring Frenchman Bay have cited both environmental and aesthetic concerns such as potential noise and light pollution.

There has been little to no local opposition to the fish farms proposed for Bucksport and Jonesport.

BDN writer Abigail Curtis contributed to this report.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....