Judge tells activists to stop filing lawsuits to halt $400 million land-based salmon farm

Ruling upheld Maine’s anti-SLAPP statute, seen as key to advancing Nordic Aquafarms’ project.

Bangor Daily News reports that a judge has ruled that a civil complaint against Nordic Aquafarms is unreasonable.

The salmon farmer wants to raise 33,000 tonnes of salmon at a RAS facility in Maine, USA, but has been battling it out in the courts over access to a key intertidal zone. Maine is one of just a handful of states where coastal landowners own the intertidal zone out to the mean low tide line. In most places in the U.S., the intertidal zone is owned by the state.

Justice Robert Murray told Belfast residents that Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace they must stop filing strategic lawsuits to stall the project.

The publication reported that he upheld Maine’s anti-SLAPP statute. This is described as guarding “against meritless lawsuits brought with the intention of chilling or deterring the free exercise of a defendant’s First Amendment right to petition the government by threatening would-be activists with litigation costs”.

The lawsuit surrounds an easement to access the intertidal zone, of which Nordic Aquafarms has an option to purchase from waterfront property owners Richard and Janet Eckrote.

However, neighbours Jeffrey Mabee and Judith Grace claim they own the intertidal land in question and last year asked courts to grant an injunction “to prohibit the developers from seeking permits or leases to run industrial pipelines through the land”.

But Justice Murray ruled these requests were unreasonable and dismissed it. “He also dismissed the couple’s efforts to prevent Nordic from making statements regarding ownership of the land, or from seeking or using permits or leases to use the land,” wrote Bangor Daily News.

“Mabee and Grace’s claims against [Nordic] that seek to directly impact the administrative proceedings — namely, those seeking to prevent [Nordic] from pursuing the necessary approvals based on claims of sufficient title, right, or interest in the relevant intertidal area — are undoubtedly based on [Nordic’s] petitioning activities before those administrative decisionmakers,” he wrote.

Nordic Aquafarms’ 33,000 tonne RAS farm in Belfast, Maine, is targeted for completion by 2021.


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