The Maine Department of Marine Resources terminated the application from American Aquafarms for leasing salmon farm grounds in Frenchman Bay, citing deficiencies in the company’s plans for sourcing salmon.

The company planned to raise salmon in two 60-acre pens and use the former Maine Fair Trade Lobster plant in Goldsborough as its hatchery and processing plant. But in an April 19 letter, DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher told the company his agency won’t proceed with the application.

The letter enumerates at length shortcomings that DMR officials saw in American Aquafarms plans for finding a “qualified source/hatchery” for its salmon stocking.

Based on those findings, “it was determined that the source facility documentation provided does not meet standards for a qualified source/hatchery designation,” Keliher’s letter states.

“Because American Aquafarms failed to supply the Department with the required information by the deadline provided and because AquaBounty does not meet the standards of a qualified source/hatchery under DMR Rules Chapter 24, the Department has determined that there is not an available source of organisms to be cultivated,” the letter states.

“Thus, because the application cannot be granted on its face, no further action will be taken,” the letter says. “Should American Aquafarms identify an approved and available source of organisms to be cultivated, it may submit a new lease application in the future.”

State officials have been under intense pressure from environmental, conservation and fishing groups opposed to the American Aquafarms proposal. Other proposals for salmon farming on the Maine coast have encountered similar resistance.

American Aquafarms was founded by Mikael Roenes, a closed-pen aquaculture entrepreneur from Norway whose startups included Norcod, which calls itself the world’s largest cod farming operation.

In October 2021 Roenes stepped aside with the hire of Keith Decker as the new CEO of American Aquafarms. Decker, a 30-year industry veteran, took over Blue Harvest Fisheries in New Bedford, Mass., in 2018 as the firm moved from start-up to growth phase to become the largest groundfish fishing and processing company on the East Coast.

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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