American Aquafarms’ Proposal Terminated by DMR & DEP
Happy Earth Day! We cannot think of a more appropriate time to report the great news that earlier this week Maine regulators dealt a major setback, if not fatal blow, to American Aquafarms’ (AA) plans to build an industrial scale salmon farm in Frenchman Bay. On Tuesday the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) stopped consideration of the company’s request to lease 120 acres in the Bay for 30 large salmon pens. The decision was primarily based on AA’s failure to identify a proper source for their fish eggs by an established deadline. On Thursday the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ended its review of AA’s discharge permit application noting the company no longer has a lease application before DMR. All state level regulatory review of the project ended with these two decisions.
FBC joins our community in celebrating the termination of the AA applications and we applaud DMR Commissioner Keliher and DEP Commissioner Loyzim and their staffs for their decisive and timely action. We also want to thank the growing coalition of environmental, small business, municipal government and citizen groups that raised their voices on this important issue. The collective power uncovered through this process is astounding, and we’re proud to be a part of a community so dedicated to protecting Frenchman Bay, one of our most treasured and shared resources.
American Aquafarms can still submit an entirely new application, but we hope that the broad-based community opposition to the project that has been growing since October 2020 may deter them. Frenchman Bay Conservancy (FBC) intends to remain vigilant in its opposition to the AA plan given the huge environmental and economic risks.
FBC’s concerns about the unprecedented scale and unproven technology of the AA proposal began soon after it was announced in October 2020. The closer the FBC Board looked at the proposal the more questions were raised. In response, FBC wrote a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers in May 2021 requesting that they complete a full Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Policy Act before any final approval could be rendered on the AA application. 18 environmental organizations, small businesses and citizen groups co-signed the letter. FBC expressed its opposition to the project in the summer of 2021 as more problems continued to emerge. Last November, FBC wrote a letter to Governor Mills requesting her opposition to the project, citing among other reasons the project’s many fundamental inconsistencies with Maine’s Climate Action Plan. Over 20 co-signers joined the letter.
In our Voices of Frenchman Bay docu-series, Graham Platner, an oyster farmer who makes his living on the Bay, spoke passionately about the negative impact a project of this scale could have on both water quality and his livelihood. Graham is not alone in these concerns which are shared by the region’s lobstermen and lobsterwomen, seaweed harvesters and other location-based small aquaculturists.
Frenchman Bay remains an attractive resource because of its pristine water quality and location. Even if this is the end of the American Aquafarms project, it is reasonable to expect other large-scale and ill-advised development projects will be proposed for Frenchman Bay and the surrounding region in the coming years.
There is still a lot of work to be done to protect Frenchman Bay from large-scale aquaculture projects in the future. The risks – environmental, economic, and cultural – are simply too great. Frenchman Bay Conservancy remains committed to standing up for the value of the Bay as a community resource and important ecological system. While today is one for celebration, it is not a time to let down our guard.