Vote to freeze Kingfish land-based project in Maine is ‘just theatrics,’ not legally binding

Residents in the town of Jonesport, Maine will vote on Wednesday whether or not to put on hold the land-based aquaculture project of the Kingfish Company, but the vote is nothing more than a PR exercise and is not legally binding, says the head of the Maine Aquaculture Industry Association.

Netherlands-based Kingfish plans to build a land-based yellowtail farm in Jonesport, a fishing and lobstering town with over 1,200 residents.

However, some residents are concerned it will impact the land of and waters surrounding their town. They want the halt the project for six months until the town has an ordinance addressing the development and operation of aquaculture facilities.

And while the petition for a moratorium is directed specifically at Kingfish, any development in Maine is keenly watched by the aquaculture industry at large because the state is becoming a hub for salmon producers. To date, two operators – Nordic Aquafarms and Whole Oceans – are fully permitted. Another salmon player, American Aquafarms, is still working on its permits. All three are going to use non-traditional farming systems. Maine’s lone open-net pen salmon operator is Cooke Aquaculture.

No impact on statewide efforts
Sebastian Belle, executive director of the Maine Aquaculture Industry Association, says the moratorium that would be voted on this Wednesday is a town-specific moratorium that has no implications for or application to any state-wide initiatives.

Kingfish already has the final approval for its project from the State of Maine.

“It’s just basically a public relations exercise to show the clients of the well-paid PR firm that they can actually do something: to theoretically put the vote on record and get the town to vote. But the reality that vote will mean nothing at all before the existing regulatory system. So it’s a very misleading exercise,” Belle told SalmonBusiness.

The same project will be reviewed Tuesday evening, July 19, by the town’s planning committee. This is not unusual, said Belle.

“As is the case for any project that’s land-based, it has to go through the local planning board approval process. That would be true if you were building a house or if you were building a farm, you will have to go through this same committee.”

The two events – the review by the committee Tuesday evening and the vote by residents the next day – are no more than theatrics, stressed Belle.

Projects will carry on
“Kingfish will continue to move forward, the state as a whole will continue to move forward, and each of those individual projects – whether it’s Kingfish or whether it’s Whole Oceans or Nordic Aquafarms – or whether it’s an individual lease application, those will all move forward through the process,” he said.


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