Newsletter: January

January 22, 2019

Nordic Aquafarms Inc. and Belfast Water District looking to preserve 80 acres surrounding Little River Upper Reservoir



We were pleased to announce this week that we have agreed to develop a plan with the Belfast Water District (BWD) to forever preserve approximately 80 acres of undeveloped land around the Little River upper reservoir off of Herrick Road in Belfast.

water reservoir 640x440

Pictured: Area is located within the red circle (exact property lines are not shown). 



While details still need to be worked out, the preliminary outline of a plan calls for the City of Belfast to acquire the property, subject to a deed restriction prohibiting any development on the property, including any commercial use of its water resources. The ultimate plan is to transfer the property to a land trust.


The BWD would sell the land to the City of Belfast at a reduced cost and Nordic Aquafarms will donate the funds for the purchase and habitat restoration. The City of Belfast will also take ownership of the lower portion of the Little River trail. The conservation of the upper reservoir land would guarantee that approximately 2.8 miles of the overall Little River trail system along the river are permanently protected.


In a news release, Erik Heim, president of Nordic Aquafarms Inc., said: We are committed to being a good neighbor and responsible member of the community.”


The Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition currently maintains the Little River trail and is expected to continue doing so. The City of Belfast is consulting with Coastal Mountains Land Trust to explore options and plans for the longer-term ownership, management and maintenance of the newly acquired land around the upper reservoir land for the benefit of the public.


The purchase price for the additional upper reservoir land will made public as the plan progresses. The donation of the funds needed for the purchase of this additional land around the upper reservoir is contingent upon our receiving all necessary approvals for construction and operation of its salmon farm.


As has been reported earlier, we have an existing option on 40 acres of BWD land near the Little River lower dam, plus an additional 14 acres of private land, on which we plan to build our land-based salmon farm.


City Council reacts favorably


Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum presented the concept plan to city councilors at their regular meeting on January 15. BWD Superintendent Keith Pooler also spoke and called the project a “win-win situation.”


Joanne Moesswilde, who initiated the discussion with Nordic Aquafarms said that Upper Reservoir land project was an opportunity to bring people together around common values. “We can learn that we are more the same than different,” she told the council, adding: “This project will benefit everyone, even if you never go on the trails” because it is “protecting an intact ecosystem.”


Belfast Mayor Samantha Paradis called the emerging plan “great news” and an “example of community collaboration.” Councilor Mike Hurley also spoke, saying he always wanted the City to buy this parcel, but there was never money to do so. He said the plan was a “fantastic solution” and called the Little River Trail “an amazing walk” and “a real treasure for the ages.” He added that it was “another reason for being in favor of a permit for Nordic.”



Meeting with Governor Mills


Company President Erik Heim and Commercial Director Marianne Naess were pleased to meet with Maine’s new governor, Janet Mills, prior to her inauguration. They briefed the Governor on the progress of the Nordic Aquafarms project and the important role that land-based aquaculture can play in Maine’s economic future.


A few days later, we were very pleased to hear this from Governor Mills in her inaugural address: “To employers, entrepreneurs and innovators, with new ideas for forest products, aquaculture, recreation, renewables, and everything in between, I say, ‘You are welcome here!’”



Sashimi Royal receives impressive ASC certification


Our sister company, Sashimi Royal of Hanstholm, Denmark, has received certification from Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) as a sustainable, quality seafood producer, meaning that it adheres to the highest standards in the industry and be subject to audits from independent, third-party quality assurance organizations.


Sashimi Royal is the largest, land-based facility in the EU that produces Yellowtail Kingfish, a delicate and much sought-after seafood product.


Nordic Aquafarms Inc. President Erik Heim noted that the company also will seek certification for its U.S. operations and that it plans to “go beyond these environmental and sustainability standards.”


Sashimi Royal received its ASC certification on December 13th, 2018, after an extensive audit process that verified sustainable practices to minimize impact on the environment, stringent limits on the use of antibiotics and chemicals, measures to prevent fish escape, sustainable feed sourcing, and more. Sashimi Royal’s certification was overseen by DNV GL, a global quality assurance and risk management company.


The Aquaculture Stewardship Council ( is an independent, international non-profit organization that promotes the best environmental and social choices when buying seafood and manages the world’s leading certification and labelling program for responsible aquaculture. According to its website, ASC’s mission is “to transform aquaculture towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility using efficient market mechanisms that create value across the chain.”


“As we proceed with the development of our land-based facility in Maine, the community and all of our stakeholders can be assured that this important certification achieved by Sashimi Royal is just the first step in a commitment to environmental sustainability and accountability that exists throughout our company,” Heim said in a statement


An Associated Press article on the certification was picked up by news organizations in Maine and throughout the country, including this story on Bangor’s WABI-TV.


Opponents’ request for public hearing and intervenor status denied by DEP 


As reported by the Bangor Daily News, a request by an attorney representing two groups opposed to our project for the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (as opposed to the Department’s professional staff) to take jurisdiction over our discharge application and hold a public hearing has been denied. In addition, acting DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim rejected a request to grant intervenor status to the groups.


The article also notes that there are “municipal waste and large industrial dischargers such as paper mills, which can release as much as 20 million to 30 million gallons of treated water per day,” much larger than our proposed discharge up to 7.7 million gallons of treated water when the facility is fully built.


Addressing wastewater discharge in general, Brian Kavanah, director of the DEP’s Division of Water Quality Management told the BDN: “The process we use to license, whether it’s a small discharger or a large one, it’s the same. The rules are the same. The laws are the same. There are about 400 licensed dischargers in the state. They’re all regulated in the same fashion. We have very good water quality in the state. It’s been a tremendous success. In the bad old days, in the ‘60s, in the ‘70s, things looked like open sewers. We’re not there, and we’re never going to be there again. It’s just not going to happen.”


The article also addresses questions about our pipeline route and the same attorney’s effort to have our applications dismissed altogether.




Maine Sunday Telegram: Aquaculture wrong target for protest


In a compelling lead editorial about aquaculture on December 16, The Maine Sunday Telegram, said: “We have all become familiar with the stories of Maine industries in decline, from plant closings to groundfish catch limits, but few of us can remember when Maine’s waterfronts were busy job sites with more workers than tourists.”


The editorial went on to say: “it’s no surprise that Belfast is the preferred site for a Norwegian company looking to build a state-of-the art, land-based aquaculture facility, which requires clean, cold water to raise salmon from eggs to adulthood.”


Noting the protests against several aquaculture projects in Maine, the newspaper made a strong case for new jobs, saying: “At this point, we’re rooting for the industry. Nobody wants to see a return to lightly regulated polluters like the chicken processors of the past, but for the sake of the people who need good jobs, the state has a responsibility to be known for something besides nice views.”


Citing the United Nations, the newspaper noted that “the global supply of fish would need to double over the next three decades to feed the world” at the same time many wild fisheries are in decline, and that “expanding aquaculture is projected to supply two-thirds of the world’s seafood, and it is considered both a way to protect the food supply from climate change and a way to contribute to a lower carbon profile…”


As we also have noted on many occasions, the editorial pointed out that “Maine’s coastline, the presence of world-class research institutions and proximity to the East Coast markets put the state in an enviable position. Allowing the growth of aquaculture here can add to Maine’s exports, bringing jobs and money into communities that have been left behind by the collapse of traditional industries.”



UNE President says “Mainers don’t need to choose”


The Maine Sunday Telegram editorial prompted several predictable responses from project opponents, but University of New England President James D. Herbert weighed in with a thoughtful letter headlined Aquaculture, environment can and will coexist.


Dr. Herbert wrote:


“Too often arguments around aquaculture are framed by a false dichotomy, whereby we are asked to choose between maintaining our pristine environment and economic development in industries beyond tourism. But new technological developments allow modern aquaculture, including land-based recirculating systems, to be both environmentally sustainable and economically viable.


In addition, economic development itself can fuel environmental progress, such as when increased tax revenues are invested in upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities and conversion to greener energy sources. With thoughtful planning and execution, Mainers don’t need to choose.”


UNE is home to a world-class Marine Sciences program and recently launched UNE North to develop innovative partnerships the North Atlantic/Arctic region. That program is led by Professor Barry Costa-Pierce, a renowned marine scientist and pioneer in “Ecological Aquaculture.”


We appreciate President Herbert’s thoughtful letter and look forward to working with UNE and Dr. Costa-Peirce to help grow a thriving and environmentally responsible, sustainable aquaculture industry in Maine.


Nordic Aquafarms holds second Public Informational Meeting on discharge

public information meeting

Pictured: Nordic Aquafarms Chief Technology Officer David Noyes makes a point during
the voluntary Public Informational Meeting on December 17 at the Hutchinson Center.


Nordic Aquafarms Inc. held a second, voluntary Public Informational Meeting (PIM) on our MEPDES discharge permit application to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on December 17, 2018 at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast. All abutters and waterfront property owners within a mile of the proposed discharge and intake pipes, including Northport residents, were sent a notice of the meeting.


“We voluntarily held this additional informational meeting on our application to ensure that anyone with an interest in the project had a chance to ask questions,” said Commercial Director Marianne Naess, who oversees outreach and communications.


During the two-hour session, members of the Nordic team provided those in attendance with detailed information about the location of the discharge pipes, the technology behind the facility’s state-of-the-art wastewater treatment systems and the negligible environmental impact on the bay.


No information meeting this month

We had originally planned to have another public information this month, but that is going to be pushed out a few more weeks as we are completing our pre-application meetings with the DEP and continue to prepare additional permit applications. We’ll keep you posted on the time and location of upcoming meetings through this newsletter and the local media.



Lobster bait discussions continue


The lack of affordable, sustainable, locally-sourced bait is a major issue for Maine lobstermen.


Nordic Aquafarms is committed to recycling its waste resources, including fish heads, racks and “guts” from processing.


Could there be a “win-win” here? We think so, and are continuing to meet with leaders of Maine’s lobster industry and Maine’s Department of Marine Resources to explore the possibilities.


Since 1999, the use of Atlantic Salmon from ocean net pen aquaculture as lobster bait has been prohibited because of concerns over disease, most notably infectious salmon anemia (ISA), being passed on to lobsters. But land-based facilities such as the fish farm we plan to build in Belfast don’t have the disease issues that sea-pen farms do, so it is certainly worth taking a new look at the ban as it relates to product coming from recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) facilities.


We are working with leaders of the Maine’s lobster industry and the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to look at changing the current rules to allow salmon parts from RAS facilities to be used as lobster bait. A working group will be convened in the coming weeks to pursue this initiative.


We are excited about the synergies that could be created between land-based aquaculture and Maine’s most iconic fishery. More to come.



Farmed vs. wild – some of the most popular myths busted


We recently came across an interesting article from feed supplier Alltech, “Farmed vs. wild: Busting fishy salmon myths.”


The article notes that 17% percent of the protein people eat already comes from the sea, and demand is set to rise by 40 percent by 2050, citing the Norwegian Seafood Council.


“The consumption of salmon has tripled over the past 15 years,” said Keith Filer, research coordinator for aquaculture at Alltech. “The increased consumption would not be possible by relying on wild-caught salmon. Farmed-raised salmon is the only option for supplying the increase in demand.”


The article also notes that Salmon production has been moving to land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), in part because “these closed systems have no escapees, and the feces are collected and removed.”


Check out the myths, from taste to color to feed conversion ratios.



Get the facts


And speaking of myths, Facts update! is a new feature of our monthly newsletter. Our opponents continue to spread misinformation about our project at meetings, in the media, and in conversations around town, so each month we are going to give you the facts to counter their false and misleading statements. Here is our first set of updates.

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