American Aquafarms, a Maine-based aquaculture company with plans for ocean-based salmon operations, a hatchery, fish farm and processing plant, announced Wednesday that 30-year industry veteran Keith Decker will join the company as chief executive officer.

Decker has extensive experience in seafood production and processing, with particular experience guiding and directing fast-paced organizations through substantial change and development. He is currently CEO of Blue Harvest Fisheries, which he joined in 2018 as the firm moved from start-up to growth phase.

Today, Blue Harvest is the largest groundfish fishing and processing company on the East Coast. Decker will remain in his role at Blue Harvest during the search for a successor and will continue to be a board member and investor in the firm.

“Keith has the right resume, experience and New England know-how to move American Aquafarms into the next generation of Maine’s maritime traditions,” said Mikael Roenes, the company’s founder. “Additionally, I’m confident that Keith will collaborate with industry experts while recruiting the workforce we need to fill the year-round, high-quality jobs we’re creating.”

American Aquafarms has filed two draft lease applications with the Department of Marine Resources to begin development of a closed-pen, ocean-based salmon operation. The company plans on establishing a hatchery, fish farm facilities and a state-of-the art processing plant that will result in hundreds of jobs in coastal Maine.

“I’m proud of what we accomplished in wild-caught seafood at Blue Harvest. It was an honor to work with the Port and City of New Bedford, America’s highest-revenue seaport, and I am eager to work on the opportunities that American Aquafarms is bringing to aquaculture,” said Decker. “By leveraging the state’s deep-water assets with next generation eco-friendly technology to sustainably produce food close to its market, we can set a new standard in the United States,” he continued. “On just 20 acres of active sea farm, we can produce up to 66,000,000 pounds of healthy fish per year without impacting the seabed.”

Under Decker’s leadership Blue Harvest achieved complete vertical integration with the addition of 12 groundfish vessels, bringing the firm’s fleet to 24 vessels including scallopers, combination draggers and trawlers with state of the art super-chilling technology. The firm is committed to transparency and sustainability, with 100 percent dockside monitoring of all landings. On the processing side, he oversaw the installation of six high-capacity lines, direct offload capability, and increased freezing capacity.

In a February 2020 interview with NF, Decker described the Blue Harvest strategy focusing on what Decker called “severely underfished” species including haddock, ocean perch and Atlantic pollock. Blue Harvest integrated its catching, processing and marketing, to build sustainability and assure quality and price stability for customers.

Decker has held leadership roles in some of the largest North American seafood companies. Prior to Blue Harvest, Decker was CEO of High Liner Foods, the largest North American processor and marketer of value-added frozen seafood. He also served on the executive team at Fishery Products International in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

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